Honoring Thy Parents

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The Bible says it is the first commandment with a promise:

“Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12

That’s a great promise, but, even with putting that aside, it is a great way to live one’s life… by bestowing honor on those who had the care of you during your formative years.

One way to honor our parents and grandparents is to let their life stories live on after they have passed. There are cultures who get this. They embrace their ancestral histories. They have oral traditions; stories that continue to be told generation after generation, educating their young of the heritage that is theirs.

We happen to live at a time when what has been called “the greatest generation” will come to an end. Sometime during our lifetime, we will hear that the last WWII soldier is no longer with us. At that time, how many stories will we realize have been lost to us? How many lessons will go unlearned?

Our elders, who have already lived through so much of life, have a great deal to impart if we just take the time to give them the platform. And with today’s technology, their personal history can be recorded and stored for all time.

If you want to honor your parents (and it is still available to do so), do yourself a favor and record them as they talk about their life growing up. Their challenges; their experiences; their observations… Future generations will be thankful.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories and offer a LifeStories service which is a video recording of a family member’s personal history. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit http://www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

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Welcome 2018!

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It’s a new year… but we will never stop celebrating the old years.  It is just what we do. Fortunately, we continue to be given plenty of opportunities..

Here are just a few of the items currently in our studio that we have been asked to convert to digital form so the memories they evoke can be preserved and enjoyed both now and in the future:

  • Video footage of a family’s trip to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City.  It’s hard to believe that event took place 54 years ago.
  • An old audio tape of young children reciting their poems and jokes for a special Mothers’ Day audio gift. Those children on the recording now have grandchildren about the same age they were then.
  • Negatives of a wedding. – It turns out those negatives are the only known photographic evidence of this milestone event because the original wedding album was either lost or destroyed.
  • 8mm film – some of it dating back to 1948. It was recently discovered by the grandson of the man who shot the footage. He says he is not even sure what is on them. What a happy surprise is in store for him…

Each of these items are precious to the people who brought them in. They represent fragments of time from their personal history. We certainly welcome the New Year and all the hope and promise that the future brings. But at the same time we venerate the past and respectfully honor all that came before. And there is no better way to honor the past than to ensure it does not fall victim to the obsolescence of the media on which it is stored. #MemoriesMatter

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. And don’t forget our End of Year sale – now extended through Jan 6!

Auld Lang Syne

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What would New Year’s Eve be without the annual tradition of a well imbibed crowd slurring their way through a rendition of Auld Lang Syne? But why this song and what does it mean?

In the 1700s, the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the words (borrowed from an old song which had been passed down through the ages orally but had never before been written down). It was eventually set to the tune of a traditional folk song and has since become a staple at New Year’s celebrations around the globe. Bandleader Guy Lombardo has been largely credited for its popularity in American culture.

It is a song that wistfully asks us, in the midst of our revelry, to pause for a bit to remember the past. As we stand on the brink of yet another new year, it is fitting to cast a look back at all our days gone by. After all, it is our past that has brought us to where we are today.  

Here are the full lyrics to the old song – modernized to help us understand the meaning of what it is asking us to consider.

AULD LANG SYNE (Times Gone By)

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne (times gone by)?

CHORUS:
For times gone by, my dear,
for times gone by,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for times gone by.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for times gone by.

CHORUS
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since times gone by.

CHORUS
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since times gone by.

CHORUS
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will ale,
for times gone by.

CHORUS

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories and would like to wish you and yours a very Happy New Year. And cheers to Auld Lang Syne. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit http://www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

How to Remember the Past

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How can you better remember that perfect day with your family or a special moment? The following are some insights from psychologist Charles Fernyhough, author of the book Pieces of Light, on the tricks and limitations of making good memories:

I’m picky about memory. I don’t want to remember more “stuff,” like the elements of the periodic table or the names of all the presidents (I’ve got Wikipedia for that). Instead, I want to stay in touch with the events of my own life: that great midnight conversation I had with a friend, or that visit with the kids to the Tower of London on a cold spring Sunday. I want to be like my grandmother, who, when I interviewed her at age 93, could recall how she felt as she saw the bombs dropping on London during the Blitz. Oscar Wilde referred to memory as “the diary that we all carry about with us.” I want mine to be filled to overflowing: not with mere information, but with the stories that make me who I am.

In order to remember an event, we first need to encode it, which means taking in information through our perceptual systems and converting it into a form that can be laid down. At the very least, that means we need to be there in the moment when things are happening. Plenty of studies have shown that, when our attention is divided, we do a worse job of encoding, probably because we don’t process the information so deeply. Our memory suffers, not just for the things we are supposed to be remembering, but also for the contextual details that might later act as cues to recall.

Shun distractions, in other words, and you should encode events more effectively. Simply telling yourself to remember might work too. In one vivid memory of early childhood, the novelist A. S. Byatt recalls telling her young self, “I am always going to remember this.” She did. Studies show that if we are motivated to remember something, we will often do it better—as long as we are motivated at encoding rather than at retrieval, when strenuous efforts to recall are less effective.

Sometimes the biggest distraction is that very determination to remember. I heard the story recently of a teenage girl who, at the end of a family trip, was busy taking pictures on her smartphone while her parents were calling her away. “I’ll be there in a minute,” the girl was heard to say, “I’m just doing my memories.” How many times have you watched footage of an event on the TV and seen people in the audience filming it for themselves? With high-quality cameras in our pockets, there’s a strong temptation to live our lives through a viewfinder.

This cuts two ways in terms of its effects on memory. True, you end up with a representation of the event that can later be a useful cue to memory (photograph albums really do take you back in time). On the other hand, you are also attending to the act of recording—which, if you’re as hopeless at using a phone as I am, takes a lot of attention. And a picture is always partial: it can’t capture anything of the other sensory details that can be such powerful cues to memory, such as sounds and smells.

We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that our online, multitasking lifestyles are necessarily a bad thing for memory. My Twitter timeline is a pretty good guide to what I have thought, felt, and laughed about in the last couple of years. We can also use digital technologies to store information that we might not attend to very much at the time, and which can subsequently be a potent cue to retrieval. This is the rationale behind some people’s use of the SenseCam, a small digital camera, worn around the neck, which is triggered to take pictures by movement and changes in the light. SenseCam has been used by amnesiacs to provide cues to memories that would otherwise be inaccessible. Tiny details from an image, features that would hardly have been noticed at the time, can spark memories in a Proustian rush.

We can do plenty of other things to boost our chances of having rich autobiographical memories. A key principle of memory is elaboration, the process of generating new connections among bits of information so that they form a more organized and persistent memory trace. Talking about the past (both to yourself and to others) serves to elaborate the memory. Children whose parents elaborate on past events go on to produce richer autobiographical narratives. Writing about the past, in the form of a diary that can be revisited in later years or decades, might be even more effective. And bear in mind that, when we encode information about an event, we also encode some of the contextual details (like sounds and smells) that accompany it. Those background details, when we re-experience them, can be effective cues to retrieval, which is why going back to a place is one of the best ways of reactivating memories of it. Some people (like pop artist Andy Warhol or many chefs) even use smells deliberately to reawaken memories of particular events; many of us use music in the same way.

While we’re putting all this into practice, we also need to be aware of the deceptions and distortions of memory. Memory does not record the past; it reconstructs it according to the needs of the present. Remembering better is not about pointing the camera and switching to HD mode. We should think about remembering as we would think about other creative things we do, like playing the sax or shooting hoops at basketball. Doing it well does not mean crunching more data; it means being aware of the mechanisms it works by and the tricks it can play, so that we can forge new relationships with these precious stories of the self.

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