How To Help Your Son Or Daughter Realize Their Filmmaking Dreams

If your teen or 20-something thinks it would be amazing to work someday on the kind of films they love – don’t let anything or anyone stop them, says filmmaker Doug Vermeeren.

Often, budding filmmakers are discouraged by advice such as, “You have to be realistic and get a real job.”

“But what’s ‘realistic’ about denying a deep passion that may give others the same joy that you’ve received from movies?” asks Vermeeren, whose documentaries have been translated into 23 languages worldwide. He is of the director of the new Calgary Smartphone Film Festival. 

“What if Spielberg or Scorsese – or anyone who has ever done anything great – took the ‘realistic’ advice and accepted a safe career? We wouldn’t have great things.”

Your son or daughter can do what they love for a career, says Vermeeren, whose latest film project is “Creepy Zombies” (www.creepyzombies.com). He offers pointers for parents who want to help their child realize their dream as a filmmaker.


  • Help them polish their people skills. It’s all about relationships. How do you get people to work for you before you have money? How do you convince people to do you favors, such as loaning you a vintage car or allowing filming to take place on private property, essentially for free? Again, your kid will need to sell people on their vision, and show them they’re worth rooting for. Make your passion infectious!
  • Make sure they monetize! Films are expensive, but so are medical and law schools. Does that mean aspiring lawyers and doctors shouldn’t make the investment? If they believe in their vision, there are various ways for your son or daughter to raise money for the project, including through Vimeo and YouTube.
  • Have them seek education wherever they can find it. Film classes are great, but don’t stop there. They should read books about their favorite directors, and enter every film festival they can. Festivals often offer cash prizes. More importantly, judges will critique the project. Their criticisms may be difficult to endure, but they can also greatly improve a young filmmaker’s efforts.  


“There are many obstacles in the way of a film’s completion, so confidence is a must,” Vermeeren says. “The first film is the hardest because figuring out the initial logistics is complicated. The filmmaker needs to get people – actors and anyone with the necessary resources – to commit before there is enough money – and there’s never enough money. People, however, are drawn to passion and determination. They need to put their full heart into it and, eventually, they’ll succeed.”

About Doug Vermeeren

Doug Vermeeren is an internationally renowned public speaker, author, movie producer, and director whose latest film project is “Creepy Zombies” (www.creepyzombies.com). He began his career in film as a background extra, actor, photo double and stunt performer on a variety of films, and his documentaries have been translated into 23 languages worldwide. 

10 Tips For Keeping Your Car Organized On A Road Trip (Organize With #ThirtyOne)

One of the things that gets my anxiety up on a trip is organizing the family. When we aren't at home things get crazy and I can never seem to find what I need, especially in the car. Over the years, I have found some things that work and they are going to come in really handy for our upcoming trip. Maybe these things can help your family as well.


1. Put a plan of action together and take time packing the car. How I do this is- when I make my packing list, I write what I will pack that group of items in and the general location it will be in the car.

2. When packing items that will be used in the car, pack in a back that is either really simple to open or that does not close at all. If you have to open and close while getting items out, items may end up being just laid on top.

3. Having several different items to pack food and drink in really helps me. I have a large cooler and tote in the back for extra food and drinks. In the front with me, I have either a large lunch box or insulated picnic basket (depending on what types of snacks I pack and how many), as well as snacks that do not need to be cold in a brown bag inside my tote. This keeps there from being so much around our feet and helps keep it a bit more organized. I refill the next day or for the trip home.

4. I keep a Large Utility Tote from Thirty-One in the very back, where it is very handy. This will usually stay in the car just about the whole trip. In this, I keep a couple of balls and some bubbles for playing at the park, swimming gear (I usually stick my beach bag down in it), an extra change of clothes for the kids, fishing poles, and bug spray/ sun screen/ other necessities. If we are going to have a picnic that day, I just throw our lunches in that and it is all handy.

5. Backpacks. The kids are responsible for their backpacks. Before a trip, I take out their restaurant kits that have coloring books, crayons, etc, and let them put whichever toys they want in them. We use those plastic links that kids like to play with and hang them on the handle of the seat in front of them. They are responsible for putting those items away. I can also put their tablets in these and they can just carry their backpacks in at night.

6. Kids Activities. I actually have two things I use for this. Between them, I put a box (more on this box later) and in it are books, toys, puzzles, that they can decide to play with as they want. It also has their sunglasses, travel pillows, and blankets in it. It has a lid, as well, which I have found very handy. With me, I have a tote that has surprises, magnetic boards, and activities that I pass out along the way. Sometimes they can put these in their box when they are finished and sometimes I take them back for the return trip.

7. Center Console. This is the tricky part because it is front and center. Of course, you need the map there, but I have also found keeping chargers, toll money, extra sunglasses, and other items you will need on the drive really helps. I also keep coffee cups front and center and water bottles handy. I usually keep a little cup, bag, or basket right up front with ibuprofen, caffeine pills (the dose that is the same as a cup of coffee), sinus pills, and an inhaler. This is so that when a problem comes, there is no time wasted getting the appropriate medicine in one of the adults.

8. When packing clothing for the trip, be very mindful of how you pack. I tend to pack the whole family together. As the kids get older, I'll probably make them responsible for their own. What I do is pack our "everyday" clothes in our duffel, and jackets, warm clothes, extra outfits, and other things we may need in a tote and leave that in the car until it is needed. If you are taking a serious road trip, with lots of driving each day and packing up each morning, consider a different approach. Consider bins, smaller duffels, or totes- one for the whole family per day and then a separate one for toiletries, cosmetics, shoes, etc.

9. The biggest thing is making sure to stay on top of putting things back where they belong. This is the hardest thing or me to get across to my whole family. Don't get to it later- do it when you finish. No matter if it is a toy, electronics, medication- put it away when you are done. Trash, throw it away (make sure there is somewhere handy to throw trash and empty when you stop.

(I received a product to review. All opinions are my own)

10. Thirty-One- As I have mentioned more than once how much I love Thirty-One. I got this bin to review and absolutely love it. I have tried using it several different times, including to organize the items I have to surprise them with along the way, but it just works best between them. It is super sturdy, with an awesome top that snaps on. One of my favorite things about it is the loop at the back so it can be seatbelted in (awesome huh?) The Flip-Top Organizing bin has to be one of my favorite items from Thirty-One. you can use to keep your car organized all the time, or like I do- I keep the kids' travel stuff organized in it when we are not traveling. There are so many way s to use it, even adding in drawer organizers or cups for art supplies. The uses are as endless as the ways it can be organized! After our trip, I'll share more about how I like it!



Some Thoughts on Home Schooling by Mac Bogert

"I never let my schooling interfere with my education," said Mark Twain.

I have met lots of people who either home-school their children or were home-schooled. Some of them experienced powerful, effective learning. And some of them were poorly served by the process because of several factors. First was fewer opportunities for them to develop a healthy sense of skepticism. As well, some had inhibited development of their social and emotional intelligence. And homeschooling is a sterling opportunity for over-controlling parents to restrict their kids' inquisitiveness and stunt their intellectual growth. As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

I am a fan of Sudbury schools—kind of a blend of homeschooling and the classroom—which provide a learning community run by the students and staff. The Sudbury model removes restrictions on learning—the students (ages 5-19) and staff (in a ratio of about 1:15) run the school, including decisions about money, discipline, and even construction. Whereas homeschooling is restricted by the focus and values of the household, however, exemplary those may be, the Sudbury model provides an expanding universe of possible ideas and perspectives.

The model resembles homeschooling in the sense that the traditional, regimented spoon-feed that makes some public schools seem like incarceration is absent. Unlike homeschooling, the Sudbury approach embraces a chaotic shotgun of ideas not limited by the boundaries of the family's emotional, intellectual, and spiritual horizons.

As a student in public school, I didn't care for a lot of school subjects. Luckily, my education was wide-ranging and encouraged a lifelong curiosity about all things. I thank some great (and not-so-great) teachers, interesting friends, and a home that respected thinking and creativity while not focusing on the "right way" to think. My parents took us kids out of school for lots of trips. We had to keep a journal, maintain our studies, and do reports about the history of where we went, but none of our teachers made a fuss.

I suppose we’re all a product of homeschooling, as we learn at least as much at home as we learn at school, right? The larger community of a traditional school, with all its flaws, provides lots of opportunities that we might not get only at home. Those factors may not be available in homeschooling environments. Even though my teachers were a mixed bag, they were diverse and stretched my ability to question, think, and judge. Two parents, no matter how well-intentioned, may simply not have enough diversity to do that.

I also wish parents would take their kids OUT OF SCHOOL more often. Schools should never be more than a part of education. Much real learning occurs outside of the classroom anyhow, like at recess. The family part of homeschooling can be nourished for kids in traditional school by traveling together, spending the day exploring museums, environmental centers, historical sites and such. That exploration could be a part of education that bridges the current divide between home and traditional schooling. For families who cannot find the time to do things together, I suggest forming a co-op with other parents. Take turns being the guide/chaperone for day trips. And school districts can become more flexible, trusting that parents have at least as much interest in their kids’ education as teachers do.

We parents can be aware that we are always home-schooling our kids. We can take that part of our home life seriously enough to model active learning, curiosity, an interest in the world of ideas, and a passion for our own growth and development. The continuum of learning from homeschooling to traditional schooling does not have to be framed as either/or. Maybe we can all engage in a conversation about combining the models for our kids’ sake.

And ours.

Mac Bogert founded AZA Learning to encourage teachers and students to become equal partners in the learning process, which he details in his book “Learning Chaos: How Disorder Can Save Education,” (www.learningchaos.net). He served as education coordinator at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and is still active in the arts for his community.

Five Tips For Choosing Your Next Travel Destination

Your Boston vacation was great, especially that side trip to Salem to learn all about witch trials.

The Grand Canyon lived up to its name and orca watching off the San Juan Islands was breathtaking.

That was all in the past, though. Now it’s time to plan the next big excursion.

But with so many places to visit, how do you choose the right one?

Blakely Trettenero, a world-traveling chef who has visited more than 30 countries, says her advice is to leave nothing to chance, which is the approach she takes for her own travels.

“It would be fun to say I just close my eyes and throw a dart at a map,” says Trettenero, host of the Hungry for Travels (www.hungryfortravels.com) and Cooking for Bimbos (www.cookingforbimbos.com) websites.

“But there’s a lot of planning and research that goes into every vacation.”

When pondering where to go next, she recommends:

  • Pick five possible places you want to see. These could be in the United States, such as Las Vegas, New York City, New Orleans, Miami and San Francisco. Or they could be foreign destinations, such as London, Paris, Tokyo, Madrid and Venice. Then decide when you want to go, how long you want to stay and what you want to budget for flights and accommodations.
  • Compare flights to every city. The internet makes this easy to do. Check the prices and the times that flights are available. If you’re on a tight budget, this is when crucial differences might begin to emerge. 
  • Check out potential accommodations. Some cities are more expensive than others. Look into all the options, such as hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, and other possibilities. Could you save a substantial amount of money if you stayed just outside the city you want to visit?
  • Find out about surrounding cities or countries. You don’t want to stay in one place the whole time, but you also don’t want to spend a lot of time traveling. Research how to get from one place to another, such as a bus, train, ferry or rental car. “You want to know this ahead of time,” Trettenero says. “In the Greek Islands, I made the mistake of not looking up the ferry schedule. Because of that, I missed visiting one island altogether.”
  • Stalk social media and the internet. Hashtags can help you find what others are saying about your destination choices on social media. Travel blogs are a great source, too. You can also just Google the places and find statistics, photographs, and points of interest.

Once you’ve gathered the information it’s time to make your choice and your reservations.
“It’s worth pointing out that there isn’t really one ‘right’ choice,” Trettenero says. “If you have a blast and come home with great memories, then that destination was the right one.”

About Blakely Trettenero

Blakely Trettenero, the host of the Cooking for Bimbos (www.cookingforbimbos.com) and Hungry for Travels (www.hungryfortravels.com) websites, is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, Fla. She is a world traveler, having visited more than 30 countries, and is becoming a frequent guest on TV.

Five Tips on How to Successfully Read to Your Child

Did you know?

  • More than half the children in the country will not hear a bedtime story tonight
  • Some children begin kindergarten having been read to as few as 25 hours
  • By age four, low-income children have heard an average 32 million fewer words than their peers
  • If a child is not reading at grade level by the end of the first grade, then there is an 88% probability the child will not be reading at grade level by the end of the fourth grade

"Reading has the enduring power to shape and develop minds, both in the home and classroom,” says best-selling author (Teach Like a Champion and Reading Reconsidered) and educator Doug Lemov. "The urgency to make the teaching of reading as effective and enjoying as possible should always be reinforced at home. The goal must be to show every child the power that comes from the world reading can bring to light.”

So, how can parents help achieve this?

Lemov has provided five tips below on how to read successfully to your child – a great tool to have as we are coming up on the end of school year and into the summer months when reading to your child is especially important.

Five Tips on How to Successfully Read to Your Child

By Doug Lemov

1. GET COMFORTABLE. Stories have been told and read for me immemorial because they are pleasurable and because sharing them draws people together. This is not necessarily obvious to children. At home, it’s good to mix reading with warmth and affection. I try to express that in the way I sit. We tuck in on the couch or in a comfy chair. I try to snuggle with my little one, and even with my older ones, ages 13 and 11. Or we lie on the living room floor, all of us, while I read aloud. Even if your child is behind in reading and there’s pressure to make progress, try to make reading time feel comfortable and caring.

2. READ SLOWLY. I like to stop for a couple of seconds about every half page or so when I‘m reading, especially to my youngest. The words and the story are more complex than she is used to. I want to give her me to absorb it. Sometimes I stop and look at her and smile when we’re reading. Sometimes she doesn’t say anything to me when I smile, and that’s fine. Sometimes she smiles back. And sometimes she makes a little comment. “Mrs. Frisby is afraid, I think,” she’ll say. I don’t have to do much to show her she’s doing well when she does that. Sometimes I’ll just nod and smile or kiss the top of her head. And then I keep reading. I read slowly too. Nice and steady to let the words sink in. There’s no rush.

3. GIVE THEM A FEW WORDS TOO. My kids love it when I say, “And the next chapter is called...” and they get to read the title of the chapter to me. Look for little moments when your child can help you read a more advanced book and see that it’s within his or her range someday. Even if it’s just reading the word ‘I’ or ‘and,’ it helps. “See, you’re on your way!” is a powerful message.

4. EXPRESS YOURSELF (as much as you can). The power of reading aloud for kids is in developing their ear for language, for what words sound like and how sentences work. Capturing that is key and it’s simpler than it might sound. You don’t have to act out the roles and make it theater, you just have to capture the sound of language and the cadence of words—which ones run together, which ones get a bit of emphasis.

5. DON’T FREAK OUT. Ok, maybe you’re great at reading aloud. But maybe you’re not. Maybe you fear it. Is it ok if you’re not confident in your own reading? Yes. But more important than telling you it’s okay I want to suggest a way to make you feel more confident and therefore more likely to read to your kids: preview the section you are going to read. The night before you read to your child, take the book to bed and read the part you’ll read the next night. If you’ve read it through beforehand, you’ll remember even if you don’t realize it. Please know that I do this all the time, even though I am a former English teacher and principal. I like to know where the book is going and to be ready for tough spots or content that’s challenging. It just makes me feel confident to know where things are going. If you’re nervous about reading, it will help you as well. As will starting simply. I know—I said read challenging books. But you can always build up to them. Reading to your child is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s fine if you need some me to build your own comfort and skill. Just please don’t let that fear stand between your child and what will help them most.

Doug Lemov (with co-authors Colleen Driggs and Erica Woolway) is the author of Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy. For more information, please visit, www.teachlikeachampion.com and connect with Doug on Twitter, @douglemov.

How Your Family Can Celebrate National Pet Month In May

Now in its 27th year, National Pet Month is a celebration of the mutual benefits shared between people and their pets.

For rescue-animal advocate Cheryl Smith, who founded a non-profit that assists pets in need, the May observance is a time to recognize many of the things that really matter in life.

“How we treat the most vulnerable animals in our society says plenty about who we are as individuals,” says Smith, a public defender who has cared for rescue animals since childhood and believes they can help humanity as much as humans help them.

“As a public defender who spends long hours entrenched in legal issues, loving and caring for my rescue dogs is personally rejuvenating. I think caring for pets helps us stay in touch with our humanity.”

Smith, who was inspired by her pack of rescue dogs to write the children’s books “Oliver’s Heroes: The Spider Adventure” (www.oliversheroes.com) and “Oliver’s Heroes: Two Paws Up,” says there are several ways people can make a difference during National Pet Month, such as:


  • Consider adopting from an animal rescue shelter. Pets bring out our inner nurturers and expressing TLC to an animal in need fosters warmth toward ourselves and others. More importantly, doing something good is good in itself. 
  • Discern which pet is appropriate for your family. Think carefully before getting a pet. Learn about its special requirements. There’s plenty of information out there to help you decide which dog or cat breed is appropriate for your home life, so a minimal amount of time researching will go a long way.
  • Make sure your pet enjoys a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Perhaps you already have a pet. It’s important to know that not all pet-food products are of the same quality. Many attentive owners go to the extent of cooking meals themselves for their pets.
  • Ask your vet which health issues your pet is prone to. Various breeds are prone to specific ailments. Male cats, for example, may experience urinary issues depending on their food. Be your pet’s advocate since they cannot speak for themselves.
  • Prevent unwanted litters. Each year, about 2.7 million animals are euthanized after entering animal shelters – 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats. You can prevent an enormous amount of suffering simply by spaying or neutering your pet.


“I can’t imagine not having my little stress relievers around when I come home,” Smith says. “The better you take care of them, the more you’ll feel good about yourself.”

About Cheryl Smith

Cheryl Smith is a public defender who started a non-profit, Just The Place Inc., to assist in the care of pets when owners were experiencing difficult financial situations or environmental crises. She was inspired to write “Oliver’s Heroes: The Spider Adventure” (www.oliversheroes.com) after her courtroom deputy found Oliver, a dog who was alone, thin and scared on the street.

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