How To Plan a Successful Family Reunion

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It is that time of year… a lot of families are planning events or joint vacations in order to touch base with their relatives. I have heard many heartwarming stories about events like these but I have also heard some heart wrenching ones.

If you have been saddled with the weighty responsibility of organizing a get-together for your relatives, here are 10 tips on how to plan a successful family reunion from familytreemagazine.com:

  1. Make a plan.  Start by picking a date and location.
  2. Recruit and delegate. No one person can manage all aspects of a family reunion. Surround yourself with capable and enthusiastic committee members.
  3. Create a command center. Keep your records organized. You’ll refer to them often.
  4. Build a budget. Keep your costs down or try to give the family plenty of lead time to budget. Give an idea of the price in the first mailing.
  5. Prepare a back up plan. If it is organized as an outdoor event, know what you will do in case of inclement weather.
  6. Get the word out. Flyers, emails, websites or all of the above. Try to build engagement and a sense of enthusiasm.
  7. Offer something for everyone. Offer a range of activities to meet varied ages and interests.
  8. Start with a bang. Getting everyone involved as they arrive is essential to setting the right    tone.
  9. Share your family’s story. Use the opportunity to make a family photo album (everyone brings pictures and create a page), a book of family stories, a video of reunion footage, or a family recipe book.
  10. Maintain the momentum. After the reunion, plan to keep in touch until the next one.

This blog post idea stemmed from a client who needed me to convert video footage of her family’s home movies so they could be played at their semi-annual family reunion. They have found that their “movie night” is the most popular segment of their time together.  There are now up to 40 family members who attend their reunions regularly and they have home movies that date back 50 or 60 years. Watching them as a group experience brings a certain hilarity that cannot be found anywhere else.

My client plans to purchase paper popcorn sleeves and make a grand time of it. I envy her. Nothing, absolutely nothing, brings a family closer together than the memories they share.

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.

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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.

 

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.

 

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.

Our Trip to Umbria

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We had a bit of a stressful day yesterday so my wife and I relaxed in our favorite way… by watching an episode of House Hunters International.  OK, so that’s my wife’s favorite way but after 26 years, I’ve learned to go with the flow.  (Just racking up the husband points. I’m sure they’ll come in handy one day.) Last night’s episode was set in the Chianti region of Italy.

It has been a dream of ours to one day own a property in Italy. We are looking at all the options – and there are so many beautiful areas in this country – but right now I favor the Umbria region, just south of Tuscany. Back in 2012, we spent an amazing vacation in Umbria and fell in love with the rolling hills and the quaint towns and villages that populate the area.

Traversing the roads was quite challenging as you might tell from the footage included below but the views you got when you reached your destination always made you forget the risks taken to get there.

The first time I drove up to our rented house, I jokingly asked the innkeeper if anyone had ever driven off the side of the road. I didn’t expect to get an answer in the affirmative. But I did. Because we were to drive that road for the next two weeks, I chose to withhold that information from my wife.

Our time in Umbria remains one of the highlight vacations of our lives. All the charm of Tuscany with 1/3 of the tourists (of course, your mileage may vary.)

Click here to see a small snippet of video we shot while we were there.

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. 

 

Our Roman Holiday

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I transferred a videotape yesterday that showcased a family’s trip to Rome, Italy. These always contain special memories for me as I’ve been to Rome on no less than three separate occasions (it is one of the benefits/drawbacks that comes from being married to an Italian woman.) The last trip was the most special for me. We brought our 12 year old granddaughter with us to introduce her to the many wonders of the region.

It was her first time beyond our American borders and we wanted to expose her to the history and artistic heritage of a culture that dates back multi-millennia.

It was a special time for both us and our granddaughter and we commemorated it in pictures. I then turned those pictures into a photo video keepsake that we gave it to her so she might always remember the time we spent together during that memorable week.

Here’s a snippet of that keepsake. The music is from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which was my late father-in-law’s favorite piece of music and on our last night there, we were blessed to be able to go to a musical performance of the piece held in one of the most famous piazzas (city squares) in all of Rome – The Piazza Navona which was built in the 1st century AD.

Preserving memories is what we do at Home Video Studio. We’d love to help you preserve the ones you have made during your lifetime.

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.

There’s No Place Like Home

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It is good to be home again. Traveling to different places, even for work reasons, can be fun. It can break up a monotonous routine, bring some new experiences and broaden one’s horizons… but it pales to the comforting feeling we get when we know we are going home.

Returning to familial surroundings after even a brief time away is something we all can appreciate. It is magnified even more when we had a hand in building the environment we call home. Here, in my office, surrounded by my books and belongings, puts me in a frame of mind where I am settled and better positioned to accomplish whatever tasks lay ahead with efficiency and ease.

But that is the rule… there are exceptions. I remember making a surprise visit home from college during a short Thanksgiving break. I walked in the front door and immediately headed to the same bedroom I had occupied since I was five years old, only to find out that in my absence my parents had turned it into a storage room/den space.  I ended up sleeping on the couch.

Once, when I took a much needed vacation from work, a day before I was to return I received a call from a co-worker telling me to stay away – to extend my vacation. It turned out that a corporate takeover was in the works and my early return would have complicated the transition. I was let go shortly thereafter.

But most of the time, homecomings are happy occasions. Like this one. I recognized it immediately as I came off the flight and into the arms of my lovely wife. It’s true – there is no place like home.

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.

Downhill Racer

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I’ve been watching some of the ski competitions taking place in this year’s Olympic Games. The skill level, dexterity, and speed being displayed has been enjoyable to see.  Personally, I’ve never been much of a skier. Tried my hand at it once. But, as with so many things, my personality shaped my experience.

The problem is that I’ve never had much patience to learn something before I jump in and try it. So, during my first and last ski outing, I simply strapped on the skis and after an uneventful trip down a rather unremarkable bunny slope, I was ready (I thought) for the ski lift. Lessons were offered and quickly dismissed as unimportant and unneeded. I had always prided myself on my natural athletic abilities.

My first run down the intermediate slope was, to put it kindly, ungainly. But I managed to make it to the bottom in one piece without causing harm to myself or others. And with every subsequent trip I became more and more confident that I had mastered the sport well enough to hold my own. Unfortunately that’s when my friend, an accomplished skier, asked me if I minded if he went up to ski the “blacks.”

“The heck with that,” I countered, “I’m coming with you.” He did his best to dissuade me but I can be obstinate. As we passed the drop off for the intermediate slope and headed up, up, up to the advanced level, I quickly understood why this might not have been such a good idea. The smooth, wide, expanse of the intermediate slopes disappeared and in its stead was a boiling river of snow with mounds and hills and no real clear path to the bottom.

I fell the minute I left the ski lift. Picked myself up, said a prayer and tried to follow my friend down the mountain. I fell again after two feet. Picked myself up, advanced another foot and fell. I then took off my skis and and started walking. I still managed to fall three more times.

I happily returned to the intermediate slope where I promptly hit a patch of ice and went down hard, breaking my collarbone. But, on the upside, I got to ride in one of those stretchers on skis down to the clinic which is an experience not everyone gets to have.

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

How Are Things in Bora Bora?

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I spent much of the day marveling at some remarkable underwater images that I was transferring from 35mm slides to a digital form for a customer. The colors of the tropical fish, coral reefs and other marine life that she captured were dazzling. Makes me wish I had spent more time underwater.

I did do some snorkeling once back in the 70s… in Bora Bora of all places. My employer at that time rewarded me with a paid vacation to a destination of my choice. Being in my 20s, I choose the remotest place I could think of; a location that I would probably never have a chance to revisit. In hindsight, I should have done a bit more research. There’s not a lot to do in Bora Bora. I quickly fell into a pattern.

I woke up, had coffee on the deck of my thatched hut overlooking the lagoon; then I got into a dugout canoe and paddled myself through what I found out later to be shark infested waters (which is a story for another time) out to a neighboring uninhabited atoll. I sat on a rock, read the paperback I brought with me, and then paddled back to the main island in time for dinner.

I did that for 4 days straight.  I think the other people where I was staying took notice because on the fourth day as I canoed up to my atoll (in my mind, I took possession of it), one of the other guests was already sitting on my rock. Being an astute observer, I couldn’t help but notice that she was female and topless. She waved and held a snorkel high above her head.

“Do you know how to use this?” she shouted out. “Not really,” I replied, “But I’m a quick learner.”

Then, in what remains as my most clueless moment ever, I took the snorkel from her and went swimming. When I came back to the atoll, she was gone.  But the fish sure were pretty.

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.