Driving your way to success

You wake up one morning and receive a call that you’ve won $500,000! All you need to do is drive 8 hours to claim your prize. You jump in your car, enter the address into your GPS and off you go.

An hour into your drive, your stomach begins to growl. You notice a flashing sign in the distance that says “World famous pizza – turn left”. A minute later, your washer fluid indicator light begins to flash and your phone beeps notifying you that you have 10 new Snapchat messages. Eyes back on the road now, you begin to notice various street signs luring you to the Casino up ahead, the designer clothing sale down the road and wouldn’t you know it, a “ This way to the beach” sign straight ahead! All you need to do is remain focused on the prize, but it seems that at everywhere you look, there are things trying to take you off your path.

We are surrounded by distractions every day and while some people are able to stay productive despite them, others – not so much.

It’s easy to let distractive activities take up valuable hours from our day and steer us off course. But to be successful, you need to take action and find a way to manage them, especially in our technology-driven world where we are constantly bombarded with a zillion distractions every minute. So how do successful people do it? There is certainly no shortage on Google for productivity tips. Tips like blocking out distractions, getting up earlier, or outsourcing chores. Not sure about you, but the last time I attempted to block out incoming calls, screaming kids and constant emails – I wasn’t exactly productive. I’m a believer in keeping it simple. Too many directions and I am bound to end up lost.

Here are 3 simple tips to help you stay the course:

1) Stay in the driver’s seat. Distractions are not going anywhere. When you are in the drivers seat, you are in control. Use this control to manage the time you spend on certain activities, rather than letting the activities control you. Identifying which activities are productive and purposeful in your business will help you to avoid the ones that aren’t. Set time limits when on social media. If you’re on Facebook to stay connected to your Sphere of Influence, then carve out time at the beginning or end of your day to do so. But, be sure you are sticking to task. Last time I checked, Candy Crush was not a lead generation tool.

2) Keep your eyes on the road. You know where you want to go and what you need to achieve every day – or at least you should. Set goals and targets for your week. Check in with yourself every day to be sure you are staying focused. I once heard the phrase “stay close to the cash” and I believe it is an accurate measure to determine productivity. Whether it’s connecting with a past client, engaging in lead generation, or following up with a current prospect – if the activity involves business development, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. (Or at least wait until you’ve accomplished your goals for the day)

3) Have a full tank of gas. Before you set out on your day, be sure you have everything you need to stay productive. Did you exercise? Eat right? Sleep enough? Have you mentally prepared for the day? Being prepared is key to being productive! If you aren’t taking care of your mind and body, don’t expect it to take care of you. In fact, you might as well start scheduling sick days, and making room for headaches and body pains.
There are many roadmaps to success. The best ones are the ones you stick to. What actions will you take today to get you back on the road to where you want to be?

Written by:
Michelle Risi, Broker
Executive Vice President
Royal LePage Your Community Realty

Playing with time 

It feels as though there is never enough time. Time to unwind. Time to create. Time to reflect. Time to play. 

That’s what was going through my mind when I decided to sneak away and retreat to my studio after what felt like a long time away. A short 20 minutes later – my latest creation. 

Playing with time”                       Original acrylic on canvas

I guess there is enough time after all 😊

Come Lay With Me

Come Lay with me

Come Lay with me

Come lay with me

Under the cherry blossom tree

Life is filled with hope

Our mind and body free


Until the wind blows

And the pedals fall to the ground

There we lay together

Love is all around


Come lay with me

This moment will not last

For everything we now see

Will soon become the past


Life is fragile

For you and for me

Come lay with me

Under the Cherry Blossom Tree


Painted and Written by: Michelle Risi

Dedicated to those who have and continue to suffer with breast cancer. This painting is being donated to a local hospital, to be hung in the breast health centre.

Under the Cherry Blossom Tree

“Come lay with me” it whispered.
The cherry blossom tree knew that something magical was about to happen. And it did.

One by one, a flower was born; a full expression of love and beauty, just as the universe had intended.

The people slowly gathered. Watching in awe as the tree gifted them with a radiant light.

“Come lay with me” it whispered again.

And the people came closer. Staring up from beneath, as the light shined through the branches and the flowers bloomed brighter and brighter.

“Come lay with me” it sang.

And the people nestled together on the ground, feeling love and gratitude for having been witness to the birth of something so beautiful.
A gust of wind blew, and a pedal twirled to the ground and soon the flowers adorning the earth. And as they watched the last pedal fall, they realized what they had just witnessed.

And once again it sang

“Come lay with me. For nothing is meant to stay forever. And when you look at me and admire my beauty, let it remind you of how filled with love your life is. And as my pedals fall to the earth, let it remind you of how fragile life is. So come, come lay with me. For now is the moment to enjoy. Now is where love lies. Now is where life begins.”

Come lay with me…

RECIPE: Gluten-free/nut-free Granola

In my recent attempts to balance my hormones and introduce creative food alternatives, I made a home-made granola and it was DELISH! And, its kid approved!

Recipe from my Holistic Nutritionist, Jenn Pike

Nut-Free/Gluten-Free Granola Bars

2-Cups Organic Oats

2/3-Cups Organic Coconut Sugar

1-Cup Gluten Free Flour (I use coconut flour)

1/2-tsp Baking Soda (I made without because I didn’t have it on hand, and it turned out great!)

1/2-tsp Baking Powder

1-tsp Cinnamon

1-tsp Salt (I used 1/2 tsp because I find the pumpkin seed butter salty enough)

1-tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2-Cups Raw Organic Honey (heat to soften)

2-tablespoons Coconut Oil (heat to soften)

1/4-1/2 Cups Sunflower Seed or Pumpkin Seed Butter (I used Pumpkin Seed Butter)

1/4-Cups Sunflower Seeds

1/4-Cups Pumpkin Seeds

1/4-Cups Carob Chips (Not part of the original recipe, but I added this in order to make it look enticing to the kids…and I prefer carob to chocolate)

Mix all ingredients together.  This will appear challenging at first because the seed butters and honey are gooey, but just keep working the mixture with a fork or wooden spoon. Once mixed, press into a greased pan (I use coconut oil to grease it), approx. 9×13.  The dough will be VERY dry and crumbly, but that’s ok.  Continue to press until the dough forms with the pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for approx. 20 minutes or until the edges are browned.  Remove from oven and let sit until completely cooled.  Cut into strips or squares and store in snack sized bags or a tupperware container.  I freeze mine and remove as needed.  You may find some pieces will stick to the pan or crumble off the bars.  Keep in a separate container and use as granola (perfect for topping yoghurt!). ENJOY!

Why feeling stuck is not always a bad thing.

I recently wrote a speech for my Toastmasters club, and in it, I described the lessons I learned from pain, feeling stuck and how its not always a bad thing.  Below is an excerpt from what I wrote:

“AH AH AH CHOO! Oh no! I think I’m stuck. But all I did was sneeze?!”

There I was, 18 years old, hunched forward in pain, and literally stuck. I had no idea what happened.  I tried to ignore it, hoping it was just a passing hiccup, but trying to ignore pain works as well as trying to bathe a cat.

I found myself a massage therapist who worked his magic on my back, getting me from 90 degrees of forward flexion to an almost upright position.  Not exactly ideal, but it was a drastic improvement from where I started.  I eventually ended up in my doctors office, and diagnosed with a herniated disc.

It took months to get better, and during that time, I became increasingly more frustrated.  One week I was fine, the next, I was stuck.

Try to imagine if you will, a single 18 year old girl, attempting to look sexy at club – only now, add in sweatpants and a cane. Not exactly the best way to find a boyfriend.  Yes, my social life was starting to suffer,and there was nothing that I could do about it.

I couldn’t go out. I didn’t want to stay in. It hurt to sit. But it also hurt to stand. I got really good at identifying people by their shoes. 


Ermahgerd! It was in front of me all along. If only I could have seen in front of me!

I was literally and figuratively STUCK!

They say the body mirrors what is going on inside our minds and coincidentally (or not), I was feeling stuck.

I had just graduated from ECE at Seneca college, a program that I loved thoroughly.  I loved learning about the psychology of the human mind, how we learn and the developmental stages we go through from infancy through to adulthood.  The arts and crafts weren’t bad either.  There is an art to cutting and pasting!

I was ready and excited to get this new chapter started.  I started sending out resumes to a few choice schools.  My very first interview was with a Montessori, and I was immediately hired.  Me! A teacher! I couldn’t believe it.

And then it started.

The snotty noses, screaming kids, and countless amounts of spilled milk!  Whoever said don’t cry over spilled milk obviously never worked in a daycare before. 

I was not enjoying this.  Not one little but.  It wasn’t at all what I imagined. I began to reassess, and I toggled between not wanting to be a quitter vs coming home exhausted, sore and sick.


I was stuck, in one of the biggest dilemmas I had ever faced.  Ok, maybe not the biggest but it was big enough to keel me over in pain from a simple sneeze. 

The days and nights I spent thinking, analyzing, over analyzing and stressing out over this, had created this huge monkey on my back. And it was weighing me down.

So, I quit.

I didn’t think twice about it. As soon as I got clear on what was happening, it was an easy decision to make. I was not where I wanted to be and my back was telling me so. I am so happy I listened, because a whole new world of opportunities opened up for me after that.

There was so much learning in that experience for me.  There were 3 main lessons that my back pain taught me.

  1. When you’re not happy with what direction you are going, you have full control to change it.
  2. When your body tries to telling you something, it’s best to pay attention. It’s giving you a clue to what is going on in your mind and heart. And, Ignoring it will only cause it to amplify its message for you.
  3. You are not stuck. Despite what you might feel, you are not stuck anywhere. Your life is yours to create. The sky is not the limit, your belief system is.

As for my back pain, unfortunately my herniated disc became a chronic issue and one that I continue to deal with, 22 years later. As much as I hate that I having chronic back pain, I have learned to be grateful for it. It is my guide in a sense. It keeps me connected to myself, my purpose and my true desires.

When I’m overtired and not taking care of myself, it screams at me to stop. And when I’m anxious or stressed about something, it is the first thing to wake me up so I can change direction.

Feeling stuck is a feeling not a fact. Use it as an indication that something needs to change, and know that when that feeling occurs, there is usually something really big waiting for you on the other side.

Don’t judge others because you sin differently: Reflections on Monica Lewinsky’s speech

I saw this video in my news feed and debated watching it.  I didn’t know what to expect, as the last images I had in my mind of Monica Lewinsky were the ones the media imprinted in my brain after the news of her affair with Clinton broke out.

Listening to her share her story, as a 22 year old girl who fell in love, my heart sank as she described her memories and experiences of the aftermath.  Twenties are hard enough without the added feelings of desperate isolation, fear, hurt and yes, shame.  Shame, the one emotion that has the potential to ruin someone’s life; the feeling that had her wishing she could just “disintegrate”.  A pretty powerful word for a young person (or any person for that matter) to have to feel.

There were so many things about her speech that impacted me, and reminded me of how important it is to be surrounded by people who love you.  To have people who, when you are so far removed from your true self, will remind you of exactly who you are.  People who mirror to you daily, your beauty, your light and your love.  Having that support is literally life-saving, because without it, shame wins.

I know I was one of those people who secretly judged her and got caught up in the drama that the media created.  I remember tuning in to the news broadcasts and reading the articles.  Having watched her speech today, I regret partaking in any of that, because the reality is, she is human.  We are all human.   And no human should be subject to humiliation, shame and hate. We are hard enough on ourselves that we don’t need others (in her case it was practically the entire the world), reinforcing the negative thoughts.

Today’s reminder:  Don’t judge others because you sin differently. We are all human.

Interested in watching the speech? Click link below.

Monica Lewinsky First Public Speech: Saying what needs to be said.

Walking dead – and no, its not the movie

Walking dead. Sounds more like a movie title (oh wait, it is a movie title), but in this case, its not.  It is basically what the doctor called me when I went in for results of a recent blood test.

Its a depressing term to use, and most people would not raise their hands in excitement and want to hug the doctor after hearing it. But I did.  And not because I was happy with what he was about to say to me, but rather that I finally had an answer to why I was feeling the way I was. It turns out (although there have been days that I certainly felt like it), I am not crazy or old or depressed.  

I consider myself a healthy person. I eat clean, I exercise regularly, I meditate, and I have a positive outlook on life. But over the last few years, I’ve struggled. Body pains, thinning hair, low-energy, tired 24-7, irritable, mood swings, forgetful….. Let’s just say that I know what an aging 80 year old feels like, and it ain’t fun. 

My days pretty much looked and felt like this: Wake up exhausted and in pain at 6:30am. Fight back tears as my feet hit the floor, only to waddle like a pregnant woman to the bathroom to freshen up. After about half an hour or so, my muscles would be loose and limber enough to allow me to get the kids up and out the door. Head downstairs to my meditation room to try and regain some mental clarity and focus, before forcing myself (literally) to get through a workout (thank goodness for my friend and trainer or I don’t think I would do anything). Shower, get dressed, and run out the door with a protein shake in hand (loaded with more vitamins and supplements than my tummy wanted to consume), and then off to the office where I struggled to stay focused and on task while smiling and keeping everyone around me motivated (actually, this part of my job is my saving grace. It gives me energy to carry on throughout the day. Although, I’m not sure I accomplished any it very well, and definitely not how I used to be able to.) Needless to say, that by the time 8pm hit, I was passed out with my kids, and praying that I was able to stay asleep all night (which was a rarity for me). And then, repeat.

Life shouldn’t be this hard. Simple tasks should not be this difficult, and my body should not hurt the way it does. So, I went to my doctor…a few times. After repeated discussions about how motherhood can be tiring (true but what I was feeling was not tired mommy syndrome), and unsuccessful attempts at getting her to run a few (non-standard) tests, I decided it was time to seek out another doctor who would. And I’m glad I did! Turns out, I am anaemic and hypothyroid (great combination – but not uncommon to be happening at the same time).

That little butterfly shaped thyroid gland is the master control center for the metabolic functions of every cell in your body. And when its not happy, it will wreak havoc on the quality of your life. It wasn’t until I came across this list of 300+ potential symptoms, that I realized how much chaos this little powerhouse of a gland could cause.

The lesson learned in all this? You know your body better than anyone else. If something doesn’t feel right, then push to get it checked. And if your doctor shrugs it off, get a second opinion. If I had pushed a little harder when all this started, I probably would have saved myself a ton of headaches (literally and figuratively).

While there is always a lesson, there is also always a gift. For me, its that I have both met and reconnected with some great doctors and nutritionists (medical and holistic), who are in alignment with my vision of optimal living. Walking dead is not living. I want to thrive not survive, and my hope is that for the thousands (probably millions) of people out there who are not aware of their condition, that you seek out what you need. I’m not suggesting that every person run to their doctor demanding thyroid tests, but listen to your body.

As for treatment? Well, it turns out that its not a one-size-fits-all and because this has been going on for years, there a number of things that need to be addressed.  Right now, I am working with my naturopath, new doctor and holistic nutritionist to get things back on track.  I’ve started on medication/supplements for the thyroid and anemia, and I can already see a difference in my energy.  I am sooo looking forward to feeling like a 40 year old instead of an 80 year old, and if I can fit back into my wedding gown again, that would be a bonus! (kidding! maybe…)

Did you know? January is thyroid awareness month