Photo of the Week No. 24: “Bath Time”

June 12, 2018

If there’s one thing Berkeley, my four-legged rapscallion, despises the most it’s bath time, without a doubt. This Photo of the Week captures the hate pretty well, in my humble opinion. I mean, check out his crooked muzzle. It’s like he’s saying, “Oh, so you really wanna snap photos right now?! Woooooow, Mom! I’m about to cuss.” I also enjoy the detail found in the droplets dangling from the whiskers on his chinny chin chin. And that his shnarly snout is in focus, while his eyes, ears and body are softly blurred in the background.

To see previous Photos of the Week, click here.

ashley ♥ adores

Photo of the Week No. 23: “Langa Landscape”

June 4, 2018

This Photo of the Week is one of many from my recent travels to South Africa — the Langa township, more specifically. You guys, it really was a treasure trove of unique sights and sounds. Saddle up, because this isn’t the last of township images that are bound to make the cut as future Photos of the Week. This image is one of the stark reminders of beauty being any and everywhere. To the lay person, this is an unkempt lawn rife with reminders of scarcity. To me, it’s the manifestation of life at odds. It’s where beauty meets struggle. The colors, the half cab of the truck — they demand your attention. I couldn’t look away. Hopefully this image moves you in some way or makes you see things from a different lens.

To see previous Photos of the Week, click here.

ashley ♥ adores

Wednesday Word

May 30, 2018

This Wednesday Word No. 107, spotted on Pinterest, happens to fall on World MS Day. You might be wondering why I’m posting about multiple sclerosis, one of the most common neurological disorders and causes of disability in young adults. The truth is, I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS on March 9, 2018, after an arduous six-month process of trying to figure out why my left foot went numb out of nowhere. I’ve had to repeat the words in the image above to myself more times than I can count.

MS has been a journey that has challenged me in ways I could never have imagined. I often fear how this autoimmune disease will attack me. How long it will be before I have another flareup. If I’ll be able to walk unassisted down the aisle on that big day when it comes. What people assume when they see my lopsided walk and leg brace (I’ve dubbed it my “bionic boot”!). If I’ll ever regain strength, feeling in my left foot. Whether this was something I could have prevented (MS is caused my environmental factors and is prevalent in people with Vitamin D deficiency). How long it will take me to find my “new normal” and what that will look like. If the sting of (well-meaning?) passersby and strangers greeting me with unsolicited remarks like “What did you do to yourself?” and “What’s up with your foot?” will ever be less jarring. If the physical therapy will be enough to help me get my old gait back.

I try to take these struggles — these minuscule mountains that stand before me day after day — in stride, but I must admit that this battle kicks my butt some days. There are prolonged periods of fatigue that seemingly take forever to shake, where I fall asleep on the couch after getting home from work, only to wake up at 1 a.m. with all the lights on and my dog running around irked because I haven’t yet walked him. There are times when walking to my car a block away from my apartment or even across the office to a meeting room is a chore. There are an onslaught of drifting thoughts that rob me of my focus, and cloud all semblance of collectedness and clarity.

Last week I started experiencing new symptoms — intense tingling in my right leg — and it was super scary. My neurologist recommended I undergo an IV infusion of medrol/steroids over five consecutive days to reduce the inflammation. I laughed when he told me. It was unreal how matter-of-factly those words rolled off his tongue. That’s something that I’m still getting used to — the big words, the unheard-of remedies, the expectation that I automatically wrap my mind around them once uttered. It’s still all new to me. The IV treatment lasts four hours. Today was day two of the treatment. It’s taxing. Saddening. Draining. Uncomfortable. It forces me to sit there and come to grips with this illness. I hope these visits don’t happen often.

As I type this, tears stream down my cheeks from the weight of it all, and Berkeley, my four-legged cuddle bug, promptly hops on my lap to comfort me. It’s these little moments that that give me strength to press on. To the friends and loved ones who’ve checked on me daily; called to chat about current events like Cousin Meghan and her royal wedding; made me guffaw heartily at their East Coast shenanigans; let me know that they “got” me and not to hesitate to let them know if they can help in any way, no matter how big or small; sent me throwback memes and videos (Raise your hand if you remember the 1990s PBS gem “Zoom”!) on the Gram; entertained my antics; presented me with unthinkable theories about the Sixers mascot and “Atlanta” that literally floored me with laughter; made the mundane feel magical; came to have lunch with me at my job; or texted a simple “How are you, homegirl?,” “Praying for you” or “Thinking of you” — it means more to me than you’ll ever know. And a special shout out to my fellow MS warriors who have given me pointers and guidance at the height of my feeling lost. You guys are my tribe and I’m blessed to have you all in my life. I refuse to let my diagnosis be a death sentence. If God woke me up today, that means He has given me a gift that I can’t pass up. It’s my charge to make the most of these 24 hours. And by golly, I’ve been fighting to make them count.

In honor of World MS Day, I hope that you’ll learn a little more about this disease that 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people around the globe are living with. And I hope that if you know anyone with MS that you’ll send them some love today and whenever they cross your mind. We need it to survive.

Photo of the Week No. 22: “A Peanut in the Belly”

May 29, 2018

This Photo of the Week was captured this past weekend at my good friend Amber’s baby shower, and she looked gorgeous — big baby belly and all! She and her husband AJ are expecting a baby girl, Daryn. I got to feel my honorary niece moving around in her mom’s stomach, which was the coolest yet weirdest feeling. There’s legit a baby in Amber’s stomach! And she’ll be here real soon. This image was taken when Amber picked the winning onesie from the little garden of onesies that guests decorated. There’s actually a really cute story behind it. Amber’s late grandfather used to call her “Peanut,” so I’m sure seeing the little peanut drawing on her baby girl will bring fond memories of him to mind. There’s hints of how special the name “Peanut” is by the smile on Amber’s face. I can’t wait to meet little Daryn! Alternate titles: “Baby’s Got Bump,” “I Don’t See Nothin’ Wrong With a Little Baby Bump and Grind,” “Peanut’s Pretty in Pink” and “Watch Out World — It’s a Baby Girl.”

To see previous Photos of the Week, click here.

ashley ♥ adores

Photo of the Week No. 21: “Baby Boy Joy”

May 22, 2018

This Photo of the Week was taken on Mother’s Day, when my sister Ayesha found out she and her husband are having a baby boy! We had a gender reveal party to break the news, which came in the form of blue confetti and Hershey’s Kisses falling from a question mark-shaped piñata. My mom had the ultrasound sealed in an envelope and we opened it together via FaceTime. It was really a struggle to keep it under wraps. At the party, we had family members guess the baby’s gender in advance and the majority of people were expecting it to be a girl, as there are four nieces on my side of the family. However, my brother-in-law Skylar has a mostly male family. I can’t wait to meet my second nephew! We’re already offering name suggestions to my sister, who refuses to listen. The front runners based on input from me and my brother Jamaal are Ashley (hey, it traditionally was a boy’s name) and Da’Johndre. I’ll let you guess who’s responsible for which. Alternate titles for this photo: “Oh, Boy!,” “Blue Bundle of Joy,” “Blue’s Clues” and “Bracing for Baby Boy.”

To see previous Photos of the Week, click here.

ashley ♥ adores

Out and About: Safari at Pilanesberg National Park

May 21, 2018

My first-ever safari was so many things: breathtaking, awe-inspiring, grounding, affirming, magical and even some feelings that I can’t explain with words.

On day two of my trip to South Africa in April, our group woke up bright and early and left the hotel at 6 a.m. for the Pilanesberg National Park for the safari. When we arrived, we were able to purchase authentic African wares from local artisans — wooden carved animal sculptures and masks, dashikis, textiles, jewelry and more. Our group divided onto two trucks, and off we went into the 141,440-acre park. I had high expectations of seeing the “Big Five”: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, African elephant and African buffalo. Click through the slideshow to see some of majestic species we encountered.

It was a spiritual moment to be experiencing God’s creation in their pure habitat. I never thought I’d be within an arm’s reach of these majestic creatures. It was an excellent day of sightings on the game drives. We saw water buck, antelope, a warthog, Egyptian ducks, Gnu wildebeest, Kudu antelope, a shy elephant, impalas, a pair of male white rhinos, a pride of lions, giraffe, Madibu storks, heron, a small family of hippopotamuses and many more. We got three out of the “Big Five,” so that’s exciting!

The first of my two favorite encounters from the day was when we happened upon a pride of lions — two males and three females — about 10 meters from the truck. They were resting under the shade and cleaning each other, when one of the males felt he wanted personal space and left the group to seek his own secluded shelter. The second life-changing moment was when we saw two young male rhinos off in the distance. They kept walking our way and eventually crossed the road right in front of our truck. That was amazing because the guide had just finished telling us about the poaching epidemic and how rhinos face extinction. It’s wild because it’s almost like a cartel with park employees working in cahoots with poachers to let them kill these beautiful beings. Unfortunately, the other group happened upon a dead rhino, a casualty of a poacher’s snare two days prior.

That day I felt like I was a “National Geographic” photographer and know that these images will be a tangible reminder of the Motherland for the rest of my life. I checked this off my bucket list with pride and must say that I’m beyond blessed!

See what other adventures I’ve gotten into by clicking here to read more Out and About posts.

ashley ♥ adores

Photo of the Week No. 20: “Birthday Wishes”

May 14, 2018

Today is my nephew Jordan’s ninth birthday, so naturally he is the star of this Photo of the Week! Our family celebrated the occasion yesterday during a makeshift Mother’s Day/Gender Reveal/Birthday Party, and Jordan was the center of attention at several points throughout the day — just the way he likes it. LOL. This image was taken moments before he blew out his candles. I call this Photo of the Week “Birthday Wishes” for obvious reasons. I love how there’s a visible twinkle in his eye. It’s like he just came to the realization that he just might attain what he’s about to ask for. Jordan, I hope all your wishes come true and pray for many many more birthdays spent celebrating your precious life! Love you, nephew 🙂

To see previous Photos of the Week, click here.

ashley ♥ adores

Photo of the Week No. 19: “Snack Attack”

May 8, 2018

This Photo of the Week is called “Snack Attack” and was taken as I dove head first into a bag of potato chips from Joan’s on Third. This shot captures the view of these delicious spheres from my perspective, and was achieved be me literally sticking my camera lens into the bag. Hey! Whatever it takes. These tasty treats were from a gift basket I received after my spinal tap. These chips weren’t just chips — they were magical, golden crisps of potatoes lightly salted to perfection. Imagine Lay’s Classic Potato Chips times a thousand! Alternate titles: “All That in a Bag of Chips,” “Feeling Chipper,” “Chipping Away at These Treats” and “When the Chips Are Down (You Go Get More Chips).”

To see previous Photos of the Week, click here.

ashley ♥ adores

Photo of the Week No. 18: “Fresh Cut Calla Lilies”

May 1, 2018

This Photo of the Week, titled “Fresh Cut Calla Lilies,” stars a beautiful bunch of, well, fresh cut calla lilies. I captured this image while strolling through the Santa Monica Farmers Market last Saturday with my guy. I love the juxtaposition of these pure, white, delicate blooms in the foreground against the harsh, cracked, grey concrete in the background. These flowers have always spoken to me. In my dad’s house growing up, there was a print of a Diego Rivera painting, “The Flower Vendor (Girl With Lilies),” that featured the slender, stately, curved flowers. When I see them, they remind me of home.

To see previous Photos of the Week, click here.

ashley ♥ adores

Travel Log: Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, 4/4 – 4/13

April 30, 2018

I made my first trip to Africa — South Africa, to be precise — the first week of April and it was nothing short of amazing. I’ve broken this Travel Log down by city, as the places we visited — Johannesburg and Cape Town — were pretty distinct. Be sure to click through the slideshow to see some of the images I took on my vacation.

JOHANNESBURG:

First off, the 20-plus hours of flight time from Los Angeles was crucial. I went with a group of about 25 people from my church, and we arrived late on Thursday so our fun didn’t really begin until Friday. After enjoying breakfast at the hotel, our group took a brief walk to Nelson Mandela Square and the attached mall. The South Africans could definitely tell we weren’t from there, as seen in the looks of confusion/judgment on their faces. However, I remained impressed by their impeccable style. I loved all the head wraps the women donned with pride. So many patterns and intricate ways of styling them. I was taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the Nelson Mandela statue in the square. This is a country that really loves, respects and appreciates its late former president. That Mandela has made such a profound impact on the world was evidenced by how Africans and Americans and other foreigners alike lined up for photos with the ginormous figure. Later that night, we attended a service at Rhema Blessings House Church, where my pastor, Wayne Chaney Jr., was speaking at the church’s five-year anniversary celebration. It was such an awe-inspiring feeling to see South Africans worshipping Christ in their native dialect. I think it was Zulu. Suddenly the world felt small. Also, it was lit! The worship team had the most energy I’ve every seen of any choir and by far the best dance moves.

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