Tag Archives: This I Do For Me

PLACEDIA REMINDS ME THAT GHANA ūüá¨ūüá≠ IS WHERE THE HEART LIVES!

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Post Written By Guest Blogger Kweli Kitwana
East Bay, California 
In this article Kweli shares how her volunteer experience and a developing special relationship with a high school student in Ghana continues to impact her life. 
Of all the years of me volunteering in Ghana over the past few years and of all the wonderful experiences that I’ve had while in Ghana, one young woman truly stands out, and she stole my heart. She was a recipient of scholarships from SistaWorks. This honor allowed her to complete high school, however due to the lack of funds, her dreams for pursing additional education seemed to be unattainable.
Placedia is is her name, and I encountered her after she graduated from high school.  As a way of giving back for having received her education from The SistaWorks Program, Placedia returned to her high school to show her gratitude by returning to speak to other students. This visit would be the equivalent to serving as a Career Day speaker.
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As I was preparing her to speak to the current and newly selected scholars, Placedia informed me that she had placed her advanced education on hold because she needed to raise 3000 Ghana Cedis/$670 USD ‚ÄĒ about $55 monthly in fees and tuition. So for now, she is selling water at the local markets with the hopes of furthering her education in the future.
I asked her how much was she able to make monthly selling water. The shocking response was ‚ÄĒ 35 Ghana Cedis/$8 USD. WOW!! That really hit me….when would this young woman ever be able to attain her higher education? ¬†Girls like Placedia, when not able to continue their schooling, will end up married and/or caring for their families and elders. ¬†With this often comes the realization that getting that additional education may never happen causing their dream to slip further and further away.

Immediately, I gave her what I had in my possession as she was leaving that day to go back to her village. I couldn’t get it out of my mind that 157 Ghana Cedis/$35 USD  was all that Placedia would earn after 19 days of selling water!

After I departed Ghana, Placedia stayed on my mind! I finally found her again, and I have since been sending her $56 a month to cover her education at Midwife College.
We write each other often (via email), and I’m learning so much about her.

I also learned that after completing her stint as a government midwife, Placedia wants to continue her education by studying to become a Physician‚Äôs Assistant at a local university. ¬†She hails from the Village of Wiaga ‚ÄĒ part of the Builsa District in Ghana‚Äôs Upper East Region. ¬†Placedia tells me that she is a proud tribal Builsa, and her native language is Buli.
I love writing to Placedia and discussing the enslavement of Africans. She and I recently made a connection around her history ‚ÄĒ The Bulsa people have a proud heritage of fighting against the enslavement of Africans. Historically, they have fought fiercely against enslavers, and when Babatu attacked her people in the 19th century, they were able to stand against him and turn him back!
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That event is celebrated to this day with an elaborate festival called Feok just before Christmas, and it is a passionate celebration which highlights their love of Freedom!
Lately, I’ve been talking to her about African Americans and our connection to Africa. I have taken great care in explaining to her that Blacks in America are not “White People” (a common misunderstanding on the continent) nor are all American Christians looking to do missions based work.
NOTE: ¬†In Ghana and throughout Africa, it is very common for Africans to refer to Black Americans as White. For example, to distinguish me as an American, they would say “the white woman was looking for you.” It is often their way of ¬†assigning class designation, and I also believe it is their way of making it clear that we are Non-African in Ghana.
These small but mighty interactions bring me much joy, and they have helped me to solidify my purpose.

Thank you Robin Joyce Tillotson for constantly reminding women to take care of ourselves and to never give up on your dreams. #thisidoforme#movintowardpositivity#wakandaforreal

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THIS…I…DO…FOR…ME 2018 DINE-AROUNDS!

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Travel is not the only thing that This…I…Do…For…Me (TIDFM) offers.

When I first conceptualized TIDFM back in 2015, I did so with the idea that I wanted the business to be a conduit for providing uniquely curated experiences for women age 50+.

One of the ways in which TIDFM carries out its mission of connecting women age 50+ is through its Dine-Arounds at   outstanding Chicago restaurants.

The first gem on our itinerary is a Vietnamese eatery well known in Chicago as Pasteur.  Several of us will be traveling to Southeast Asia in 2019, and I thought what better way to learn about Vietnamese culture except through its cuisine. We will dine there on Saturday, May 5, 2018!  Pictured below is a Vietnamese Vermicelli Salad and Banh Mi Lettuce Wraps.

 

The second restaurant on our Dine-Around schedule is Eddie Vs Prime Seafood scheduled for Saturday, July 21, 2018. This outing is particularly special because TIDFM will also host its second Annual Book Swap. My gift to my assignee is the book “Stockdale” written by author Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen. ¬†I’m excited about passing this book on and the pleasure I derived from reading it.

Each attendee will bring a used book to share/give to another attendee who has been assigned to them. Also, when presenting the book to their assigned partner, each will explain a little about the book and why they enjoyed it prior to presenting the book to its new owner.

On Saturday, September 29, 2018, our Dine-Around will take us to Mexique, a fusion experience of Mexican and French cuisine. ¬†I love this place! ¬†You will be amazed at what Chef Carlos Gayton does with the Roasted Monk Fish. ¬†It will explain why he is slated to receive his first Michelin Star ‚≠źÔłŹ.

And, lastly, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate will be the venue for our last dining experience for 2018. ¬†Even though the food is out of sight, the desserts are epic — Chocolate, Chocolate and more Chocolate! ¬†Check out Mindy’s Milk Chocolate Coffee Mousse highlighted below, right.

 

What’s the best part of all of these outings? ¬†Not the food, although the food is magnificent and not the lovely decor, although beauty is evident. ¬† It’s the conversation. It’s the laughter. ¬†It’s the sharing. And ultimately the best part are the new relationships that are forged and the opportunity to be with like-minded women!

Bon appetite!

Get Yourself a This…I…Do…For…Me T-Shirt — You Owe it to Yourself!

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This client is smiling from ear to ear as she is about to embark on a fabulous trip to Hawaii with her husband Fred!

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To show how important it is for her to consciously recognize the importance of self-care, Paula wanted a t-shirt to outwardly reflect how enthusiastic she feels about doing something for herself.

Like so many women, Paula has always expended a load of energy, time and love on parents, siblings, children and her spouse.

And equally important is ¬†the effort she puts out daily at work and helping others in fulfilling their aspirations. ¬†“Working in the field of social services is rewarding, but compassion fatigue can creep in — I need to periodically gas up so that I am present for my clients” states Paula.

She now, without hesitation, embraces self-care and no longer sees it as a selfish indulgence. “I’m so excited about my trip, and I can say with solid confidence THIS I DO FOR ME!”

 

 

 

MORE CULTURE SHOCK IS ON THE HORIZON!

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In October of 2019, I will escort 10 excited women to Bangkok, Thailand (The Land of Smiles), Taipei, Taiwan and three cities in Vietnam — Hanoi, Hoi An and Halong Bay!

Experiencing a country’s culture, particularly its food scene gives you a close up glimpse of what the people cherish.

When I visited China in 2005, I really found out what culture shock was all about. Asia was unlike any of my previous travels.  Toilet usage, certain spices, Tai Chi in the parks and fresh, fresh fish, Communism and the way the Chinese interface with these facets of their culture are unforgettable.

I suspect Southeast Asia will present to us nuances that will shock us even more.

What’s the use in traveling if you don’t experience and see something diametrically different from your normal.

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Traveling — A Different Kind of Vacation

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What was the unexpected? ¬†Taking a vacation in the middle of a harsh Chicago winter — one that I never even entertained. ¬†Winter has mainly been something to suffer through while I waited on the dawn of spring when it “made more sense” for me to take a vacation.

So when I was invited to spend time in Puerto Vallarta last month, I went with the flow and decided to spend some winter time doing something different, but this time in 80+ degree temperatures.

Typically, when I vacation, it is traditionally to locales where there are loads of historical monuments to behold, great shopping districts to experience, restaurants to sample and jazz clubs to get my music fix satisfied.

Although these destinations are exciting and filled with constant activity and fun stuff, I must admit that my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico was a different kind of vacation. Total relaxation ruled the entire week.

Although I took advantage of a few excursions — a tour the historic Lady of Guadalupe Church, viewing the sculptures along the Malecon and shopping, the best part of this trip was the time I spent at Palenque Spa getting a mani and pedi, along with a deep tissue massage, partaking in sumptuous meals like the one at Los Alcatraces La Marina, sipping champagne on the golf course and more importantly just kicking back on the beach in the most comfortable lounge chair while immersed in a collection of essays written by Samantha Irby sharing the company of special friends.

And I can’t forget the time I spent on the balcony watching daily sunrises and sunsets.

My mind was not bogged down with the items on my To Do List, or work related issues or making decisions. ¬†My mind was clear — as clear as the waters in Mexico.

I think I can get used to that!

#thisidoforme

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MAKE 2018 THE YEAR THAT YOU COMMIT TO RADICAL SELF-CARE!

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Like so many of Ann Lamott’s powerful insights and quotes, I especially like this one because it propelled me to look at self-care as a radical act.

No longer of the mindset that taking care of myself is an act of selfishness, I now see it as high level activism. ¬†“Why?” you ask.

Simple — because unless we feed our bodies energetic food, our minds powerful fodder and surround ourselves with nutrient-rich people who support us and call us out when necessary, we can be of little benefit to others nor have a true impact on our world.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that being a sacrificial lamb earns us a place in the pantheon of sainthood.

Here’s to a life of radicalism! ¬†Happy New You!

 

 

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Wanna Join Me in Greece?!?!

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As you all know, I love to travel! So, I’m letting you in on a little secret today!

This…I…Do…For…Me is announcing its 2018 International Excursion (its back to Sydney, Australia in 2017) to Athens, Santorini and Mykonos!

The beautiful aspect of this adventure is that airfare is also included, making this one of the most affordable international offerings that you will come across.

There are only 14 slots available, and as I announced this dream vacation on my social media platforms today, five slots were immediately taken! Don’t think too hard — JUST GO!

If you are seriously interested in seeing stunning Greece, please contact me at 773/759-1374 for information on cost, payment plans and a detailed itinerary.

OPA!

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BEEN ALL OVER THE WORLD, BUT I HAVEN’T BEEN TO PILSEN IN MY OWN HOMETOWN!

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It’s a damn shame! ¬†I’ve been to Australia, France, China, Africa, Spain and a host of other foreign countries. ¬†I pride myself on being a global citizen, who partakes in a variety of cultural offerings. ¬†I’m open to diverse cultures and sampling unique foods. I have even tried learning French at age 50+.

So with all this cultural exposure, how in the world could I have never been to The Pilsen community on the lower west side of Chicago?

I have been trying to get to The National Mexican Museum of Art since 2002; every year I vow that I am going to visit there, but it keeps greeting pushed off. ¬†Back in 2015, I clearly stated in a blog post that I would no longer put it off and visit this treasure in 2016. Have I done it, yet? Not yet, BUT…

Recently I enrolled in a photography class with a phenomenal organization — Blue 1647!! Blue is a technology innovation center “where diverse people making a positive impact in the world gather to create, collaborate, learn and build (from Mission Statement).” With a mission like this, it’s no wonder Blue 1647 would find themselves in the heart of Pilsen — a community ripe for technological innovation, business development and culture.

When I found myself having to go there for my class, I was a bit excited because I’d never spent anytime in Pilsen. ¬†Conversely, I was a bit uneasy about going there for the same reason — I’d never been there. If ¬†I am honest with myself, I would have to acknowledge that no matter how adventurous I have been throughout my life, doing something for the first time was still daunting, even for me!

I love serendipity! ¬†Here I am taking a class in a neighborhood that I have heard so much about but hadn’t spent any time there. ¬†Once I arrived for my class and had to go out to shoot photos, I immediately felt the electricity and specialness of Pilsen. How could I have overlooked it, underestimated the importance of spending time there, and as much as I love Mexican food, what was my problem? I wondered.

Being surrounded by a number of beautiful murals depicting ¬†Mexican culture, being in the midst of coffee houses like Cafe Jumping Bean, taquerias and the lure of the aromas of Churros and other edibles, I became overjoyed and blessed to be present here on a Saturday — a day where you can truly capture (with a camera) the the life of a community. ¬†I could feel Pilsen’s spirit.

Residents rode by on bikes and even stopped to take pics with the women in my class.  Cars whizzing by slowed down to a crawl to checkout why seven women  were clicking away with their 35mm cameras.

Like many Chicago neighborhoods, Pilsen has gone through its share of gentrification; many families have moved out because of what’s been called an affordability factor. However, Pilsen hasn’t seemed to have lost its true essence.

It has a great balance of older adults who maintain the stories, music and history of its residents. There is other end of the spectrum where there are young people with high energy, new ideas and dreams.  There are small business owners like shoe cobblers, hardware stores, dress shops and long established restaurants.

Street food, Horchata and Huaraches can be found everywhere!

There is a lightness in the air — the kind that says, “we are family; welcome to it!”

I look forward to hanging out more and more (with my camera, of course) in Pilsen! I plan to get to know her well.

 

 

 

 

 

I WANT TO GO BACK TO SPAIN, NOW!

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Spain is life! Spain is Beautiful! Spain is Everything!

I spent 13 glorious days is Espana! Every time I visit a new city, it becomes my favorite. Madrid is everything I imagined — sophisticated, vibrant and cultured. I was blessed to experience multiple facets of this great city.

Madrid was also not everything I expected. My imagination has not evolved enough to hold all that this beautiful city and country has to offer. Although I only scratched the surface of Spain (I’ve also been to Barcelona and Mallorca in the past), Madrid convinced me that I must return several more times to fall in love with other cities there. So in advance, I want to thank Seville, Bilbao, Granada and Toledo! I look forward to meeting you.

While in Madrid, I visited the venerable Prado, where I saw the work of the Spanish Master Francisco Goya (his Black Paintings were something to behold), and I visited The Reina Sofia. There I saw the work of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso’s Guernica! It’s one thing to see these works in a book, but to view them in living color is nothing less than amazing.

What is Spain without Flamenco, along with a tasty selection of Tapas? At Torres Bermejas, we were entertained by seven Flamenco artists. The costumes were phenomenal, and the art form, itself, will have you mesmerized. Flamenco is both sexy and powerful.

What would a visit to Spain be without seeing some of the places that famed American writer Ernest Hemingway frequented?

The bodega Sofrino de Botin is one such place! Acclaimed as the oldest restaurant in the world (in 2025, it will be 300 years old), Botin is mentioned in Hemingway’s Classic
“The Sun Also Rises.” It was his favorite restaurant in Madrid, and who could blame him. The Roast Suckling Pig and Roast Lamb are their signature dishes and will make you salute the chef. Their Sangria was classic, as well.

When you visit Botin, ask to see and/or be seated near The Hemingway Table.

What was most memorable? My favorite experience in Madrid had to be the Paella class I took with four other people visiting from Australia, Poland and Arizona. I have always wanted to take a cooking class abroad, and I got to fulfill that dream. We also prepared a Spanish Omelet and a Cod and Orange Salad. We had a blast! Our instructor was truly phenomenal.


My second week in Spain was spent in The Salamancan village of La Alberca! Stayed tuned for a blog post about my volunteer experience with The Diverbo Program.

The people of Spain are Diamonds, and if you really need a crash course in living well, just emulate them!

Enjoy my photos!

For or more photos from Spain and other travels, please visit http://www.thisidoforme.com/travel.html

LET’S GET REAL, LADIES ARE YOU REALLY TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF?

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Let’s face it, we put up a good front when it comes to keeping it all together. We like to feel good about multi-tasking (the experts say we women are good at that), ¬†about having a list, schedules and a synchronized routine for getting through life. We get a high from ticking off the boxes on our well crafted lists, and we can recite sequentially everything we “accomplished” that day.

What we won’t admit to is how damn tired we are. We convince ourselves that as long as we got all our errands done, our household tasks completed and we got that promotion or some recognition at work, we have it all under control. Do we, though?

If you have a family, when  was the last time you announced to family members upon arriving home from work that before you do anything (aside from an extreme emergency) for anyone, you are going to take 20 minutes in a room alone to meditate, unwind in the tub, sip a glass of wine or have a pleasant exchange with those in your household expressing why you are so glad to see them after a long and hard day?

If you are single, like myself, when was the last time you ate a meal without talking on the telephone?  Did you remember later what you even ate?

Even if you did perform some perfunctory self care, of these things, how much of it did you savor? Do you remember what it felt like?  Or did you do the usual by rushing through it so you could get to the next thing?

I am slowly learning that if I complete all my tasks, but I’m not present during the process, especially when im just trying to get to and rush to the next thing, I’m doing myself an injustice.

We have done this for so long that we think this level of functioning is normal. ¬†So today I commit to doing it differently. ¬†Yes, I will still maintain my lists, but I won’t trip when everything on it doesn’t get checked off.

I often say that I love myself, but when I don’t take time to breathe and tune into my relationships with people, I have to question that. ¬†After all, life is about the people in it, not how succinctly we got through the day.

I’m making the commitment to do it not better, quickly ¬†and efficiently, but with great care and more importantly — LOVE.