authenticity 101




A few months ago, I had a long chat on the phone with Jaclyn Law, who was calling me to discuss my thoughts on stress. My curling friend Karen had suggested me as a possible source and I accepted despite wondering if I was the right fit for the topic. We ended up talking about my favorite subjects which are having a vision, getting clear on your values and learning what to keep and what to let go of in order to live the life you want. It was a great chat and at one point, I stopped worrying about whether it was about the topic of stress at all. I was just saying what I believe leads to a healthy and authentic life.

Stress is of course part of our everyday lives, whether we care to admit it or not. There are going to be days where it is more present than others. Despite some very challenging times in my life in the past few years, I have managed to not become a full-on "stress-ball". That's what my daughter Isabelle would call high strung people (including me) when she was about 6 years old. I have periods of intense stress where I needed to really focus on a task or an emotional situation of course, but thankfully my everyday life has been set up, based on my values, to minimize stress. I know when I am starting to feel burned out by too many commitments and have improved my ability to say no politely without guilt. I know when my body is craving physical exercise and I need to go for a run which magically also clears my head. I certainly do not escape the effects of stress and too often react in ways that are not positive, but becoming more aware of what my stressors are is a step in the right direction.

Jaclyn's article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2013 edition of
Expressions, Inspired by Acura which is a print-only magazine for Acura owners. I was given permission to quote a few sections and I want to share some of what I said and how Jaclyn wrote about what we discussed in relation to stress. The title of the article is The Stress Test. Long term stress hurts your health. Find relief by living truer to your values.

Combatting the effects of stress is a good move, but consider going deeper and getting to the source. That means taking stock of your hectic life and figuring out what to keep, what to let go of, and what is in fact, missing. "It's about creating a vision for your life based on your needs and values and how you perceive the world, which is different for everybody", says Lianne Doucet, a vision coach and professional organizer in Toronto. It's stressful to be something you're not. That's the biggest stressor - trying to live up to others' expectations."

As a vision coach, Doucet helps people clarify their values and decide which commitments, responsibilities and possessions are most important to them. She advises clients to light their load by saying "yes" to things that fit their vision and "no" to those that don't add value.

It was really cool to see myself quoted, and I like how she interpreted what we discussed. Now I have to remember to take my own advice!

Welcome to my Website


This lengthy entry is the original About Me on my Greeting Page. A good friend helped me whittle it down but I decided I couldn’t part with all of it so here’s the whole text. I love excess when it comes to words unfortunately and bottom-lining is not my strong suit!

For the record, I love words. I love reading words, playing with words and using words to support my vision of who I am and want to be. Words are extremely powerful, and I believe that words carry energy. That’s why I always remind people that the words they choose to describe themselves, out loud or in their own mind, can impact their perception of who they are.

As a Vision Coach I support people to be gentle with themselves and to create a vision based on acceptance and self-love. My main coaching tool is to be authentic in my own life and lead by example - being true to my personal values and accepting myself as I am has resulted in magical moments and the attainment of many personal goals. It’s not always easy, of course, as my ego likes to “protect me” from being judged as flaky or weird.

But I persist in being myself, striving to stay true to my intentions by minimizing the controlling behaviours and admitting to myself when I’m wrong. Staying present with the emotions that arise when we are out of our comfort zone is a challenge, as we prefer to disconnect and check out emotionally when fear and self-doubt creep in. The fact is, staying vulnerable and true to our values is how we get real and messy and connect to our creative self.

My photo is not your standard headshot, I know. It was taken in Grundy Lake Provincial Park on a gorgeous summer day in 2009 by my partner Phil. I love this picture because when I look at it, I can still remember and “feel” the happiness of being me in that moment--I’m camping with my family and friends and I’m loving life. My hair is messy, I’m not wearing makeup, I’m barefoot with warm sun on my skin and I have no immediate commitments. Oh, and I’m wearing my “movie star” sunglasses!

How simple and easy to truly like and love ourselves in the moments we are feeling free and unburdened. I’m a lot of fun when relaxed and full of expansive self-esteem! The challenge for me is to like and love myself when I am anxious, fearful, making comparisons, and wanting to shrink back into my safety zones. Being authentic is about accepting and loving ourselves even when we are feeling vulnerable, and triggered into saying and doing hurtful things we regret out of fear and disappointment in ourselves for not being perfect.

There’s actually something inherently beautiful about flaws. Our dining room table was handmade by Phil, and we love it because it’s warped, with epoxy-filled cracks and a messy underside of criss-crossed cuts. Yet every person who has entered our home comments on how gorgeous it is. They love the authentic feel of it, the fact that it was hand-made with love and that it boldly states “I am imperfect”. Except that it is actually perfect, for our newly blended Brady Bunch family of eight.

So I am striving to accept that perfection of being a beautifully flawed human being. I know that in my quest for authenticity, I am easily
inspired and moved by people who truly live their life and are free to explore. The idea of looking at everything that happens in my life as a result, rather than a success or failure is one that I am slowly embracing. I will live my life fully, with courage and love and the ability to laugh at and learn from my shortcomings instead of being ashamed of them. Some days that comes easily. On the days that I struggle I try to remember that I am, in Brené Brown’s words, always worthy of love and belonging. As we all are.

Welcome to my website. Hope to meet you someday if we don’t already know each other!

When The Vision Becomes Reality Part 1

Family in London

I call myself a Vision Coach, which is not always easy to explain. Basically, I support people to explore and connect to their values in order to create a vision for their life. Although I have actual coaching credentials, my true qualifications lie in the fact that I practice what I preach and am passionate about visioning.

I struggle with the idea of blogging, wanting to protect my personal life and the life of my family from public scrutiny. However, in order to practice authenticity, I want to share how having a vision in my own life has led to incredible moments of vulnerability, self-awareness and complete happiness. The photo you see here is one such moment of happiness. Chris and I had been separated for over 2 years when this photo was taken. I was dating a lovely English fellow and he and I took my girls to visit his family in England. Chris flew to London to meet us there after a week, spent the weekend with us and then returned to Toronto with the girls so I could spend an extra week travelling with my new partner. This photo was taken one evening in a pub and I remember how thrilled I was to have Chris there with us so that we could enjoy the experience as a family.

So how did we get to a place where my ex would fly to England to spend a weekend with me and our girls? By having a vision for a healthy relationship and putting our kids first, then taking the steps to make it a reality.

When Chris left in 2006, I was devastated. I truly believe he was too. I knew he had been unhappy for a while, but was completely unaware of the depth of his despair over the state of our relationship. He had not voiced it in a way that reached me, and it wasn’t until he said he needed to leave that I realized there was something seriously wrong. In hindsight, I had disconnected from my own feelings and was living on auto-pilot. Neither one of us had found a way to say to each other what we were really feeling and our intimacy and authenticity had become non-existent. In having the courage to leave (I say this knowing how incredibly difficult it was for him to come to the decision) he forced me to look at what wasn’t working anymore and why. I had to self-reflect and take a long look at my own behaviour in the breakdown of our marriage. In that moment of feeling hurt, angry and rejected it would have been easy to be a victim by blaming, punishing and speaking ill of the man who left me. But I didn’t, despite being in a tremendously painful period in our relationship, because it went against all of my values of trust, honesty, love and commitment. Thankfully, he had those same values which we could re-build on. We found a way to love and honour, respect and commit to our family and our children even if we weren’t husband and wife through therapy, long conversations and loads of patience ... with each other!

Our vision for the future was to create a new relationship that included healthy, happy parents raising beautiful daughters together. This would be a very long blog if I described how many times we took one step forward and two steps back to create the relationship we have today. But in the end, being honest with each other, saying the difficult things with love and having healthy boundaries all contribute to an amazing relationship that we are grateful for every day. I no longer have a husband in Chris, but I have a loving and dedicated partner who shares in the challenges and blessings of raising our girls together. We truly have attained the vision we had for our family, despite its non-traditional appearance. It doesn’t get any better than that.

When The Vision Becomes Reality Part 2

The Proposal

So what prompted me to suddenly want to share personal vision stories on my blog? The marriage proposal from my partner Phil last month re-confirmed that visioning is real, that it works and that we all have the capacity to shape our own realities. In making my story public, maybe you will be inspired to discover your values and create your own vision for an amazing life.

After Chris and I spent time restoring our relationship but unfortunately not our marriage, I decided that I wanted a romantic partner. I wanted someone to love me for who I am, to understand me and support me and challenge me. Someone to share my life with. I decided to create a list of who that man would be. I wrote out what I wanted by specifying which values we would share, what character traits and personality he would possess and what our relationship would look like.

When I met Phil and his boys while camping with friends, there was an instant connection. But there were lots of complicated reasons for us to stay just friends. Well, I thought there were complications so we did just that. Become friends. We wrote to each other on email, had coffee once in a while and met at mutual friends’ houses for special occasions. Six months later I had to admit to myself that my heart knew better than my head and that this was the man I wanted to be with. Once I had committed to being with Phil, I remembered my list which was buried under some journals in a desk. I was astounded to see that he met every single one of the criteria I had set out, before even knowing him. I had even specified I would like my future partner to be a teacher, handy around the house, at least 6’1 in height and have the ability to be authentic and communicative. It was spooky to have manifested the vision of my perfect partner.

Now one of the complications of being with Phil was the fact that we were blending 6 kids together. Where to live? How to make that transition smooth? How to create space for all 4 parents to feel safe in the new family configuration? Visioning. Phil and I intentionally and deliberately discussed our vision of how our new family would be brought together gradually, how we would renovate my home to meet our new needs and how we would create the emotional space to let the kids adjust in their own individual ways. It was challenging and delightful and busy and emotionally demanding but always moving in the right direction. Because we had a vision and we knew that we wanted health and happiness for all parties involved. And when you know what your are aiming for, it is much easier to stay on the path towards that goal. Even when the path gets rocky.

So to get back to the reason for this post, take a close look at the photo with this blog. When Phil proposed last week, it included a surprise poster-sized collage of photos and words that depict our life together. It is basically a representation of our vision becoming reality. The poster has hundreds of photos depicting Phil and me, our children, our camping and cottaging trips, our renovation and our friends. It’s a reflection of Phil’s love for me and for us as a couple and for our wonderful blended family. And that gift reminds me once again that knowing what we value and following our heart creates magic and the opportunity for our visions to become reality.

I hope you take the time to create your vision. It’s an incredible feeling to have it come true.

The Power of Being Intentional

Zip Line Family

Having a vision and being intentional about staying true to the vision can be incredibly rewarding in ways that we don’t always anticipate.

When Phil and I decided to blend our two families (my three girls and his three boys) into the Bertmount Bunch, we very deliberately discussed how to best serve the needs of our kids. As we settled into the first year of living together we realized how very rarely we spent actual time as a full family of eight. There’s always a dance class here, a sleepover there, age and gender differences and various other commitments that pull us all in different directions. We thought that a family trip was in order to get to know each other as a blended family with no outside distractions.

During one of our family meetings we asked the kids what their preference was: a family trip or a big, fancy wedding. Ha! Guess what they picked. (The wedding ended up casual and in the backyard) I had recently heard about and thought it would be the best way to travel with our large group and minimize the cost of accommodations. So we discussed the pros and cons of various destinations and picked Costa Rica. We found an exchange partner on the website and started the process of relationship building with a lovely couple who would trade houses with us for 3 weeks in July.

Our vision was to spend time together as a family in a new environment, creating memories and getting to know each other. We did that and more. We learned all sorts of things about each other, saw gorgeous flora and fauna and experienced a new culture and language. We had a great time and have fantastic memories. Was it perfect? Of course not. Even with a pool and pets, boredom set in after a few weeks of being away from their friends. Regardless of how beautiful the scenery is or how many sloths you see, at 15 and 16 you want to be with your peers. It was lovely though to see that by the end of our trip, the kids were behaving like real brothers and sisters. Annoying each other, but also supporting each other in subtle ways.

Every day that we spend in Costa Rica, Phil and I did our best to remind each other of why we were there. I worked hard to relax (yes, I know that sounds ridiculous) and just let the experience be what we intended it to be. A family getting to know each other better. I think we accomplished that. And we did it in a really awesome environment while zip-lining and playing with monkeys.

Whether you have a vision for your whole life, or simply for one event, stay the course and be intentional about it. It’s worth it.

Did You Say Camping Wedding?

Camping Wedding

If there is any event in your life where having a vision is really quite important, it’s a wedding. No matter how big or small, casual or formal your ceremony and reception are, the day you get married should be full of good moments and feelings of happiness and love. The part we often forget though is that the months (or weeks in our case) leading up to it should also be fun and that we can’t get lost in the details.

Visioning has become such a big part of our life that when Phil and I talk about planning things, we start with the end in mind. What was the overall feeling we wanted at our wedding? That our guests feel comfortable and at ease in a casual natural environment that allowed for organic conversations and a moments of connection. Hmmm. That sounds a lot like sitting around a campfire. Which is exactly how we met each other. So we decided to turn our backyard into a camping retreat in the city. In the space of 5 weeks, we created a space which included a true campsite area with picnic tables and a fire pit on cedar mulch under a canopy of mature maples. We had a “glamping” lounge with rugs, sectional furniture and a chandelier for the non-camping crowd and our own backyard with a deck and a willow tree for the ceremony. Oh, and a 50’ by 30’ white tarp over our entire back yard, 30 feet in the air above the willow. The people who saw the “before” and “after” shots were incredulous that we pulled it off. They never could have imagined it.

The part that is hardest to explain about visioning is that
you don’t have to know how you will accomplish it. You just have to envision it and then take the steps to make it happen. The universe will support your vision as long as you have faith, apply your time and energy to the details of supporting your vision and do the work. Each step in the direction of your vision will bring it to reality.

When we first thought of using the back yard, we had to pause as our yard is tiny. It meant really scaling back our guest list which we were loathe to do. As we continued working through the details of how to make our vision a reality and accommodate our guest list of 140, we approached our neighbours with the idea of knocking down the fence between our yards in order to add extra space for our event. Since we were offering to re-landscape their space and pay to re-build the fences, they agreed. So our vision of a camping wedding in the city was suddenly completely possible as we had 3 distinct yards to create outdoor “rooms”. From that point on, hard work, lots of helping hands and a open mind to accept ideas from friends all came together to create our ideal wedding. The best part? Phil and I rarely disagreed. We tore down fences, built a deck, bought dishes and lanterns, put up a tarp, created an invitation, wrote our vows ... you name it, we did it. Together and with a lot of laughter and ease. How is it possible that planning the wedding was so much fun? I truly believe it’s because we were doing exactly what we wanted to do and we had a common vision that we kept in sight. We were doing this wedding for us, and it reflected our values and the things we cherish: our children, our families and friends, our home and our love of community and entertaining. And camping!

It really was magical. Everything fell into place, including the weather, and we have incredibly beautiful memories of our wedding. An event that reflected our values and even included my ex-husband. The fact that he was present and supportive of my new life was priceless and part of my vision for a healthy and loving future for my girls and new blended family.

So once again, I have proof positive that the “how do I get there?” is not important. It’s the “what do I truly want?” that’s crucial. A clear vision from a heart-felt place is all you need. The how to make it real will show up and you just have to be ready to do the work.

One Step at a Time


Although I was never much of an athlete in high school, I did enjoy curling, as well as track and field. As an adult, I continued with the curling by didn’t start running again until a few years ago. I did some sporadic running and a few 5K races with a friend. But there was no consistency or real motivation.

While discussing my lack of physical fitness with a fellow coach during my coaching training, I was challenged to run after I mentioned it as a interest. Sign up for a marathon she says. I laugh and say no way. That’s ridiculous, I’ve never run more than 7K. I don’t have time to train. I don’t like it that much. However, as we continued with the conversation, I realized that actually, I did want a running goal that was outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to get fit and stop with the excuses. So I counter-offered with a half-marathon.

I ran my first half-marathon in 2009 in 2 hours, 22 minutes. On October 16th, 2011 in Detroit, I ran my second one in 2 hours, 9 minutes. I am finally comfortable calling myself a runner and I am probably in the best shape of my life at the age of 45.

The thing that I find fascinating about this is that I had lots of excuses for why I couldn’t do it when the challenge was presented to me. As a coach, I spend a lot of time telling other people that anything is possible, yet I really believed that this particular challenge was not possible for me. Then I realized that running is exactly the same challenge as every other situation in my life: it takes patience, perseverance, support from others and the willingness to do the work. There are no short cuts to achieving what we want. It’s a process, and a commitment to putting in the time and the effort to reach our goal. One step at a time.

There were plenty of mornings I didn’t want to get out of bed to run. There were times I skipped the runs and then realized the only person who would suffer was me, as I wouldn’t be ready for the race. I actually called my brother-in-law Trevor the month before to ask if he was backing out of the race so I could have an excuse to cancel too. Thankfully he said “let’s do this thing!” and we crossed the finish line together. It was a lot of fun in the end and I’m so thrilled that I persevered and did it.

Not everyone has to run a marathon or even a half-marathon in their life. There are multiple ways of stretching ourselves past what we think we are capable of. Whatever your goal is, whatever you aspire to do, start with the end in mind and take the first step. Each little step in the direction of your vision will get you closer to what you want to accomplish. Believe me, I have seen it over and over in my own life and in the life of my clients.

I challenge you to take the first step toward your particular goal today.

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