Kidney Awareness Month 

March is Kidney Awareness Month. 💚 

It might not mean much to you, but it holds great significance for me.  For years my family has suffered from Kidney Disease – more specifically PKD OR Polycystic Kidney Disease. Growing up, I thought it was isolated to my paternal grandmother, but fast forward to today, this disease has affected my father and two of his four siblings. All three having had or approaching the need for a kidney transplant. If that is not scary enough, it is still unknown whether this gene has been passed on to myself, my siblings, my cousins or our children. 

It is devastating to watch this disease take an otherwise healthy and energetic person and turn them into someone who struggles for the energy to perform normal activities of daily living. 

My dad (and his siblings) have struggled for years, and as those years pass, the fight intensifies. Today, my dad awaits a much needed kidney transplant. One would think that because he has a willing donor that it would be an easy process. It is not. While his donor (his loving wife) wants to donate to him, she is not a direct match. About a year ago they began the process to be placed on a paired kidney exchange program. Essentially, when a kidney match is found for my dad, she will donate her kidney to an awaiting recipient.

 Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, we’ve gone through two potential rounds of pre-qualifying draws and on both occasions, no match was available for him. It is such an emotional roller coaster. The fear, anticipation, hope frustration, despair…  

He continues to wait, but not without a cost. He is operating at less than 15% kidney function and every day that passes puts him at increased risk of kidney failure. My hope is that a match is found quickly so that he avoids dialysis. Dialysis, while life saving, comes with its own risks and set backs. 

So why am I writing this? Well, in addition to advocating for PKD and Kidney Awareness month, I am writing to ask for your help. 

What can you do to help you ask? Sign your organ donation card. Or better yet – go online to officially register your organ donation. So many people are in need of vital organs. Vital organs that we will have no use for once we die. You have no idea the difference you can make by taking two minutes (it literally only takes that long), to register your organ donation online. 
Be a donor. Save a life. 

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 😊

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.

Creative Dabbler

I’m back! At least for today. It seems there is never enough time in the day to devote to all the things I love, writing being one of them.

As a Creative Dabbler (I prefer this term instead of Jack-of-all-trades. More fun and light-hearted, don’t you think?) I find that I love so many things that are creative and filled with opportunity for self-expression, and I sometimes wish I could just do them all at once. But I can’t. So I resolve to letting go and doing what I love in the moment that I feel like doing it. No pressure. Just joy.

When I feel like painting, I paint. When I feel like practicing guitar. I practice. When I feel like singing. I sing. When I feel like writing, I write. When I feel like meditating…..actually, I kind of don’t give myself a choice on this one. If I want to stay sane and grounded all day, I need to meditate. Especially with the busy mind I carry with me.

Today, I felt like writing. I just didn’t know about what. So, in keeping with my “no pressure, just joy” rule, I figured I would write and see what comes out. And here I am. Writing about being a creative dabbler who wishes she could have more time to dabble. And as I sit in my car waiting for my daughter to finish dance, I write. Just me, my thoughts and my phone. (I’ve pretty much written every blog post and quote from my phone. Excuse any typos or incorrect grammar because I really don’t edit what I write.)

I also wish I brought my meditation music, my guitar, a book.. *sigh* I know I only have 45 minutes but I like to be prepared in case inspiration hits.

The thought hits me; Could creative dabbling just be an excuse for not wanting to commit to just one thing? Hmmmm………..*puts down phone and thinks for a while*

Nope. I’m good with commitment. I think I just love too many things (is that even possible?). I want to feel joy and feel alive 24/7. So whatever I need to do in this moment (and the next….and the next) to feel connected to myself in the presence of love and joy, I will do. In this moment, it happens to be writing.

So that settles it. I am not a Creative Dabbler with commitment issues. I’m a Creative Dabbler who is committed to experiencing joy in every aspect of my life, all the time.

And I’m good with that.

Being human

Be kind, compassionate and loving.  Because that’s what this world needs.  It needs humans who will strive to be who they are, rather than who they are not.  Humans to love with all their heart and soul. Humans who will teach the next generation that life is what you make it, and everyone is perfectly flawed.  The world doesn’t need perfection.  The world needs humans, like you.