I believe in this simple equation: You + (trusting) your body’s deepest wisdom = Loving Yourself Well

What Have You Been Up To?

Did you know that living a healthy life includes paying attention to your primary food?

What is primary food?

Well, while it can look differently for different people, I can tell you that secondary food is what you put into your body for fuel and energy. Primary foods are those things that bring you to life, those things that have you lose all track of time, those things that bring a smile to your face and put a pep in your step.

For me, one of my primary foods is creativity. I love taking photographs and making mixed media art and I am forever going to art retreats in lovely locations or enjoying local classes taught by some incredibly talented, lovely and inspiring artists.

What have I been up to lately?

I am in the final week of Montage, a video e-course that teaches you how to make soulful videos. It is offered by one of my biggest inspirations, and loveliest friends, Vivienne McMaster. Her e-courses often focus on a topic near and dear to my heart as a health and lifestyle coach – ways to bring your own unique beauty into focus. I must say that this has been incredibly fun three weeks where I made this:

Remember from Valerie Tookes on Vimeo.

So what have you been up to lately?

What kind of primary food have you been craving?

PS. Please stop by and check out the interview I did with the amazing Opener of Hearts, Illuminator of Dreams, and Anxiety Warrior, Heather Day of VitalBeingWellness on loving my {im}perfect body.

Yes, You Are Who You Say You Are

Running Shoes


We all have a story about who we are in this world.

We all keep this ever present, running list that consciously (and not so consciously) guides our decisions in obvious (and not so obvious) ways.

As we get older, we add chapters and the list seems only to grow longer and longer.

I am no exception. The story that I carry, like everyone else’s began in childhood. It has chapters that have been added with each success, disappointment and heartbreak and I can sometimes feel myself getting entrenched in the tale of who I am until something comes along to shake things up.

A couple of weekends ago, I agreed to support a dear friend as she ran her first half marathon… 13.2 miles… a crazy distance in my mind because in my story, there is a chapter that is titled “I don’t run.” Maybe the chapter began when my military father decided that it would be a great idea to do family runs together. Picture an unhappy round and awkward pre-teen girl, being teased by neighborhood boys about thunder thighs.  Perhaps the story deepened with the added experience the same girl having to run a timed mile runs every Friday morning paired with the fastest boy who would actually lap her on the track as all of the others watched and played.

I don’t run. Period.

So I arrived early at a designated location on the half marathon route with a bag of supplies –  Gatorade, blister pads, baby powder, moleskine, Reese’s Pieces – waiting for her to reach mile marker 8. Not wanting to miss her, I stood there, scanning the crowd for a familiar face. After a bit, I began to not just see but take in the faces of the people running by. They were mostly women, some strong and fit – not their first run – types, some round and awkward – perhaps their first time – types. There were different ethnicities and ages and sizes and body types with much variation and variety yet I picked up on what felt like a common thread. There was this look of determination across each sweaty face.

A not so little voice inside my head say, “I could do that.”

Hey, what? Wait a minute! Remember, we don’t run, I thought.

The voice came back, clear as a bell “But you could.”

Hmmm. That got me thinking. Despite the story that I had been spinning since I was 11 or 12, despite my rote 3 word answer to anyone who asks me to join them on a run, despite the words heavily etched on the page of the chapter long since written I realized that the voice was completely right. I could do this. It would require a pair of running shoes and some proper training and it would require goal – like a 5K – to work towards and perhaps a friend or two to encourage me but I could do this.

I can do this.

Maybe, I will do this.

Why? Because while we are all most definitely who we say we are, we are also so much more… if we simply decide to be.

Tales from the Land of Law and Order

daily jury duty photographs

A week ago I served my last day of jury duty, the last day of 12.

This week as I was getting back to my “real” life, I was struck by a conversation with a friend who mentioned how hard it is to show up with someone who seemed to have it all together. She saw herself as someone who did not have it all together in that moment but more unsettling was that she saw me as someone who did.

The exchange really has been sitting with me. My first impulse was to laugh because my perception of myself, particularly after the 12 day adventure in the land of law and order was that I was far from having it all together. Me, the one who felt like she was constantly tripping over my own two feet?

If you really knew me, you would know that what brings me calm, peace and freedom most in my life is having a sense of order. Knowing that I can’t control much, I have managed to create this rich and full life that works because I take the time to choreograph the details I can control. Over the years it has served me well. I even am no longer bothered by the vocalized “control freak” inferences from others because they usually turn out to be projections about their own (in) ability to get things done. I don’t expect anyone else to operate the way that I do in the world. I don’t expect it to work for anyone else. It simply works beautifully for the Virgo in me.

So back to jury duty…

To be completely honest, I never thought that I would be picked. As each step in the selection process brought me closer to the jury box, I figured that being chosen one of 12 out of 170 randomly selected residents, the odds had to be in my favor. Until they weren’t and I was the last juror chosen. The judge described how he expected the trial to last for the rest of the month complete with three weeks of opening statements and closing arguments, witnesses and expert testimony. All of the balls that I carefully juggle began to falter… my full time job, my health coaching clients, the four week online class that had just started.  Tripping over my own feet, I began to worry which ball would drop first.

Then with a surprising quickness and clarity my mind shifted gears.

I recognized the familiar feeling of being unmoored and untethered. In my non-acceptance during the three days of jury selection I had abandoned myself.

I was living with the assumption/fantasy/ wishful thinking that I would be excused, that any minute, I would get to re-enter the choreography of my life. In that moment of clarity that came with being selected, I recognized that I was in my life and though I couldn’t choreograph the scales of justice,  what I could do was find my much needed ground and calm, I could come home to myself.

So, I pulled out my journal and wrote the following:

Jury Duty Comfort Station

Healthy picnic lunches eaten next to the lake

Set up on my laptop to check in at work remotely

Reschedule my clients

Take daily pictures and post them on Instagram

Morning green smoothies from the local juice bar

Dress like me

In the space of time that it took to write that list, I found myself at home again. I may not have felt like I had it all together but in that list I found me.

What Your World Is In Need Of


The words what is the world in need of swirled around and around in my mind. I contemplated it in relationship to the value of my work in the world. I looked at it through the lens of the intentions that I fiercely hold for my clients. At some point, without notice, the question shifted into something more tangible and I found myself asking instead – what is MY world in need of?

And from there came a lofty and laudable list of words, deep states of grace for anyone to strive for no doubt:









deep rest








When thinking about THE world, out tumbled all of these other questions:


Who do you think you are?

Who are you to think what you have to offer is important?

Even if you could make a difference, where would you begin?


Yet, when it became about MY world, what occurred to me was that it all begins and ends with me and I believe that in order to be a change maker, the same holds true for each of us.

These words can be wonderful gifts when they are lavished upon those that we care for and about. They can be healing when they are directed toward those that we don’t care much for and they are profoundly life-changing when they are directed toward yourself.

There is an idiom that says, “Charity begins at home.” This phrase has come to mean that you should begin by helping your family and friends before you help other people. I believe it goes deeper than that. For me, it means that you should help yourself before you venture to help your family, your friends and the rest of the world.

I can hear those conditioned voices shouting…

“That is so selfish.”

“You are self centered.”

“You only think about yourself.”


My reply to them is a resounding yes! Yes, I am selfish. Yes, I am self-centered. Yes, I am thinking of myself because in order to change the world, or at the very least, my corner of it, I have to begin at home, with my breathe and in my body. In order to make change in my outer world, things have to change in my inner world.

In order to provide THE world with what it needs most, I must provide MY world with what it needs most which quite simply is me.

A me – who acts authentically, her heart filled with love and compassion toward herself and others.

A me – who is so filled with a peaceful spirit that joy and happiness just radiate from her eyes.

A me – who is mindful enough to notice and provide deep rest and comfort.

A me – who can reach out in connection with passion and purpose to support others when she is feeling 100% fully herself.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman

How I Love


Print by K. Barteski

This week I have been thinking about how I love.

The monologue rolling and rolling around in my head always seems to start with what I know for sure about love.

Love is vital for human development.

Studies have shown that babies thrive when they are loved. They will fail to thrive if they are not. We are born knowing how to love but often lose those skills as we grow older. The only true way to  re-learn how to love is to simply love and allow yourself to be loved. While one can read all about it, it can’t be learned from a book, magazine article or blog post (believe me, I have tried) but instead it must be experienced in the flesh.

Love is a choice. 

Despite what I read in fairy tales and young adult novels, there isn’t some bolt of lighting that strikes you. There isn’t just one soul mate “out there” for everyone. Instead love is a conscious choice that we each make each and every day, a choice to open our imperfect hearts to falling in love with other imperfect soul before us.

Everyone wants to be loved.

Every single one of us, whether we admit it or not, move through the world seeking love and connection through our words and actions. The problems arise when we figure out that what we want most in the world is often what we fear in equal measure – being seen and loved matters that much. I know that I have been guilty of pushing away love for fear of it being taken away.

This week I find myself questioning how I love.

For a long time, for fear of getting hurt or worse yet, looking like fool, I loved in silence, I loved in a way that it was a secret only known to me, the faulty logic being that there was no way that I could get hurt if I did not say the words. Of course, the downside of that strategy was that I often was misjudged as being aloof, cold and distant (even though, below the cool surface of things, nothing was further from my truth) there was no opening for me to experience the joy of loving and being loved in return.

After months of feeling on the outside during an intensive workshop, and with a giant shove from a kind friend, I literally made an announcement that I was open to love.  I decided to love big and to love openly, to say the words and open myself up wide. It is all still so new and I often feel like a puppy who hasn’t grown into her body, I feel all sharp elbows and wobbly legs, bumbling my way through connecting and through loving.

I stumble over my words, maybe I say too much too soon, share too much, in my earnest attempt to start with my heart and arms wide open. Like everyone else, I want to thrive in the company of those around me, and at the root I am that little girl who wants nothing more than to be loved.

If you really knew me you would know that I find myself struggling not to love in silence or to push away connection. I am struggling with how to not allow myself to be pushed away. Though everyone wants to be love, not everyone is on board with the way that I love. Not everyone is comfortable with my awkward expressions. Sometimes I feel like I am just too much or maybe not enough and that something I did or said caused them to retreat, to pull away and I am left wondering is it how I love? Will I ever get it right? I am left wanting to retreat myself, to pull it all back, to go back into the mode of keeping it all to myself. I wonder if I can still fit back into that tiny box which stored my heart for so long.

Then, out of the blue, I am reminded that I am seen and held and loved by friends I have chosen in my life. They continue to show me that they choose to love me. I will meet a friend for brunch or receive a lovely text, a funny email or have a Facebook conversation and

I am emboldened to love big and awkwardly and openly again and again and again. I am still re-learning. I am always trying to remember that though not perfect, when my intention is good and pure and there is no way to ever love wrong.