THE LAST MONTH OF THE YEAR.


Merry Belated Christmas to you and yours <3 - I hope it was full of love and laughter.

It seems like I blinked and all at once, here we are, on the verge of a new year. The lights and ornaments are being tucked away, resolutions are being written and 2019 is en-route. Now that we're nearing the end of the last month of the year - I feel like I owe my dear blog a little recap.

Here's what I've been up to

THIS NOVEMBER...


Last November, I was in such a bad mental space. I was lowkey sad, angry and processing so many afflicted emotions.


Being so overwhelmed by the troubled waters around me, you couldn't have told me that things would get better anytime soon - but rest assured, there were calmer seas over the horizon.


Time tended to my poor wounds and my wholeness came back full circle. Healing is beautiful.





So here we are, a year later and this November has left me so full - and it isn't just because of the turkey and fixings.


This November was full of...

BECAUSE, CHILI.


Happy November, love bugs! Normally I would add this post to my monthly recap - but I just had to make some space to feature one of my favorite comfort foods.

At work this past week, we had our Annual Chili Cook-Off and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. A good bowl of chili has been on my spirit for weeks and I was so excited to finally be able to indulge.

We were given about five chili recipes to sample. Some were bland, some were too spicy, some were meatless - but there was this one batch that spoke to my very soul. It had the perfect blend of meat, beans, and veggies, with just the right amount of spice that didn't overpower the complementary flavors - it was booomb!

Apparently, everyone else's pallet was on the same accord as mine, because that particular recipe ended up winning the contest. Since then, I've been determined to match that exact flavor.


All week, I've been approaching my coworker for bits and pieces of the ingredients, in hopes that I would eventually compound his recipe in all of its splendor. After much consideration, he was kind enough to share his special touches with me, along with the common chili staples.

OCTOBER WAS LIT.


This month was nothing less of sugar, pumpkin spice, and everything nice. My October consisted of:

CINCI


My last day in Ohio was spent in downtown Cincinnati. I heard about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center - and I was really interested in going. I also wanted to expose my niece to the many untold stories about history, that she may not have known about.
Cincinnati, OH, USA

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU APPLES...


The air is crisping, the leaves are crunching and we're pulling out our favorite sweaters. It is Fall, yall. Since September, I've been itching to get the Autumn festivities cracking and I finally had the opportunity to indulge. While in Ohio, I convinced my sister to drive me to Peifer Orchards in Yellow Springs. The Yelp reviewers had nothing but good things to say, so I had to stop by and see what was up.

Yellow Springs, OH 45387, USA

MAINSTRASSE VILLAGE


For the past three years, I've been a frequent visitor of Dayton, Ohio. My sister and sweet niece live there, so I make sure to venture out at least twice a year to see them. Normally, my Dad and I make that seven-hour drive up 75 - but I was not in the mood for a road trip this go-round.

Dayton is a small town. So small that most of the major airlines removed their services from the airport. Which makes it tough to find a good, inexpensive flight - but being the Frugal Fran that I am, oh I found a way!


Cincinnati is about 45 minutes south of Dayton, so I flew into CVG for the low-low and had my sister gas up the wagon to scoop me up. Yay, for cheap travel!


Upon arrival, first on the list was brunch. As soon as I landed, I felt it in my spirit. I needed mimosas - and waffles - and all the bacon they could give me. Minah wasn't familiar with the area, so I took to Yelp to light my path. That's when I realized that I was actually in Kentucky and not Ohio. Apparently, Northern Kentucky and Southern Ohio have the same airport, located in Hebron, KY. Confused yet?


Nevertheless, we ended up in the Mainstrasse Village historic district of Covington, Kentucky. It was elevenish by the time we got there and it seemed like the little, quiet town had yet to awaken. Most of the restaurants weren't open until noon - but there was an assortment of shops, art galleries and historic landmarks to keep us engaged while we waited.
Covington, KY, USA

A SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER

September:


Mind: Quiet
Spirit: Lifted
Skin: Clear

THIS ABOVE ALL


I remember when I decided to start a blog. At that time in my life, I was glowing up, coming into my own and finding my stride on the voyage to grown-womanhood. Since that was such a pivotal phase in my life, I wanted to capture all of those moments and milestones along the way to becoming unapologetically me. Four years and a couple of revamps later, here we are. Just thriving in the blogosphere!

When it came to picking my blog title, it was actually a lot easier than I had anticipated. I remember jotting down a few cute and catchy name to nab the ears of the audience - but they just weren't sticking, or fitting me the way that I had wished. I was looking for something simple that would embrace who I was - but also serve who I desired to be. And just like that, it came to me - True to Lu.


This has been my "brand" for many years and genuinely, I couldn't have picked a better title. TWL is more than just a name on a site, it has become a way of life. An affirmation, my mantra - and it means everything to me.

If someone were to ask me what it personally means to "True to Lu" - the answers would be never-ending and ever-changing, but here are a few that are paramount:

True to Lu means...

SO LONG, SUMMER.

There's nothing like the morning kiss, warm on your face.
The botanic fragrances that whisk in the wind.
The lure of the waters.

VIBES ON REPEAT


Earphones in. Volume up. Vibes on repeat. That has been my mood as of late. My streaming library has been on heavy rotation and I'm happily using every penny of my $9.99 this month. Musically, I've been craving some goodies to add to my queue and in pursuit, I've stumbled upon some delicious ear candy. Here are a few:

TUBING ON THE HOOCH


I have a hard time making decisions. I don't know if it's my changeable nature or my tendency to regard every pro and con before I come to a conclusion - but it's something that I'm still learning to master. So when it comes to moments of spontaneity, more than likely, I'm the passive participant.

Last weekend, I was enjoying Pinot on the grass with a new friend. We had an open weekend and began flirting with the idea of going to North Georgia to find some outdoor adventures to dive into. Initially, I bubbled up with enthusiasm and began to plan for our day-trip in my head (but I know thine self!). By the time I made it home and got all warm and snuggly in my cocoon of introversion - I had already postponed the trip to the following weekend, put my scarf on and went to bed.


Danielle, on the other hand, was not having it. By nine-something, Sunday morning, I woke up to a series of messages as follows:

***** I WANNA GO HIKING!!!
I'm up now and ready to go!!!
😑😑😑
Let's goooooooooo
Helen, GA 30545, USA

YAY FOR DATE NIGHTS!


Over the weekend, I got together with two of my best girlfriends. The summer has been eventful and we've all been equally booked and busy. Being three different women, in our thirties, with different careers, responsibilities, (bedtimes) and schedules - it's not so easy to drop everything we're doing, throw on a red-lip and hit the streets with the girls.

Since adulthood is hectic, to say the least, we plan date nights. Yes, date nights. Just as you and your significant other set time aside for each other, to go out and enjoy quality time - that same energy should be invested into your friends.

CHASING WATERFALLS


I'm not the most adventurous gal out there. Most times, when I'm presented with an adventure, my mind is open but my guards are up. Especially when it involves me being outside, communing with nature. To a nature-enthusiast, the outdoor experience can be a calming, enchantment of the wind, the trees and the chirping of the birds. Me on the other hand, my perspective is contrary. While in nature, I often feel disoriented and clammy, and itchy - all while trying to avoid every little critter in my space (their space, actually). It's everything but serene.

If it were up to normal circumstances, you would not catch me trying to explore these earthly elements - but a few weeks ago, I felt an internal nudge to go chasing waterfalls. I had a dream. In the dream, I was wading at the bottom of a beautiful cascade of water. Once I woke up, I wasn't sure if it was last night's dinner or my subconscious speaking to me, but I had a pleasant feeling about it nonetheless.

You see, most of my dreams fade from my memory shortly after they occur - but this one remained, so I decided to further pursue its significance. Symbolically, dreaming of a waterfall represents letting go, releasing and in the end, gaining revitalization and renewal. That's all I needed to see. I was convinced to fulfill my dream in the most literal sense, and I did.

LESSONS FROM EXES


Not too long ago I was at home, drinking water and minding my business. Suddenly there was a ping from the messenger app on my phone. To my surprise, the sender was a dearly departed, former male acquaintance - from an old relationship. A relationship that ended a long time ago. I mean, way back when T-Pain was popping and guys were wearing white tees and snap-dancing in the club.


My first thought was naturally, "what does he want??" Afer ten years of no contact whatsoever, I couldn't fathom why he would invest the time and energy into looking me up, composing a message and slithering his way into my inbox with regret, remorse, and explanation. Chile, please.

Don't take amiss, there weren't any hard feelings on my end. I mean, I had ten full years to purge all of the offense. I was just perplexed that he was still stuck in the past (and assumed that I was too) - but as you would expect, I kindly sent him on his way and gave him the closure that he may have needed.

After that happened, I couldn't help but look back at all of the relationships and complicated-ships, I had encountered in my twenties - and my oh my it's been a bumpy ride. I've dated some characters - everything from the womanizer, to the starving artist, to the commitment-phobe. There was even a time when I found myself on a "date", in a tent, in somebody's mama's garage (I wish I was making this up!).  Although it's pretty embarrassing, I can sincerely admit that my dating life has been a hot mess.


I've said it before, dating is hard - but it teaches you a lot about yourself. As you go through this journey with different suitors, you begin to realize what you're really looking for in a companion. It can be draining, but the lessons you learn along the way are well worth your while. With all of that said, here are a few lessons that I've learned from my exes.


MEMORABLE MOMENTS


In just a few days, my niece Micah (also known as Jellie) will be headed back home from her fourteen-day visit to Georgia. She lives in Ohio, so I normally only get to see her about twice a year if I'm lucky. Sure, we video chat and text every now and then, but nothing compares to those connections developed through memorable moments. Those moments that light up your face whenever you think about them. The funny stories that no one else would get because they just had to be there. The very moments that make nostalgia so nostalgic. Gratefully, this summer, I got to have those moments with her.

HAPPINESS IS NOT CIRCUMSTANCIAL


Today I looked at the calendar and realized that we are smack dab in the middle of 2018. It's officially summertime and it's time to sit back and unwind, yall. While the rest of the year is in-queue, there are still a few things that I'd personally like to scratch off of my list.


Save more money. Change my diet. Find a church home. Discover additional writing ventures. Travel more. Fold my clothes - you know, stuff like that. As I danced around with those thoughts, I couldn't help but recollect the past six months, and all of the events that had transpired. Some good, but some not so good. If I had a multiple-choice option on how to rate my year thus far, I would probably go for the "satisfactory" bubble. Although great things and necessary changes have granted me a few victories - I can't say that I'm overjoyed with the state of my life right now - but why is that?

LAZY UPDATES

I promise I'm gonna stop doing this! May said goodbye, June said hello, and July is on the way. I depicted the past month (or so) beautifully but failed to compose it. A girl's been busy. Long story short:

SEVENTEEN TRIPS AROUND THE SUN.


She was barely over five feet, with a delicate frame. Skin as smooth as satin, the color of coffee and cream. Her eyes were deep and warm, accented by stern, subtle brows. She was crowned with fine, coily curls and wore a smile that was as bright and welcoming as the sunrise.

Scents of citrus and Egyptian Musk preceded her.

Denim overalls and touches of black and silver adorned her body.
Her hugs permeated with love.
The stories she told brought comfort,
and her hearty laughter brought joy.

I was honored to call this amazing woman, "Mom"



WHEN THE OCEAN CALLS


Since before I could remember, I've always been intrigued by the water. As a mere toddler, I once had enough fearlessness to dive into the deep end of a pool - without having any prior, formal swimming lessons. By the time my mother realized that the little girl in the deep end was me, I had already figured out a way to kick my little legs and paddle to the other side. Thankfully, my inner-Pisces and instincts from the womb saved my life!

To this day, I hold that same fascination with the water - and nothing makes me happier or more at peace than the beach. Just the sight of sun-kissed, blue and emerald waves speaks to my soul like no other (the feels are real). So for my personal well-being, a little vitamin sea must take precedence every year.


Living in a state like Georgia, the weather changes its mind like a girl changes clothes. I have literally been wearing sweaters up until April, I'm over it. For months, I've been longing for sandy toes, salt-water scents and ocean breezes - and I got my wish earlier than I expected.

Destin, FL 32541, USA

MY BAD, APRIL.


Heeey. It's been awhile. I would love to offer my "Happy May" salutations, but since I've failed to document my happenings for the past month, I feel like I owe dear April an apology.

For most of the month, I've found myself in seclusion, and it's not just because of the April showers. As of late, life has been coming at me fast and forcing me to run for cover like an unexpected thunderstorm.


Over the course of this drizzly season, I've had a lot on my plate. Let's see, I had to make some major adult decisions, secure travel plans, work overtime, execute my budget, sell my beloved Honda Civic and unexpectedly buy a new car. Having to make sense of so many things in a short amount of time has been overwhelming to say the least - but in the words of Sojourner Truth, "Ain't I a Woman?"


Personally, when a lot is happening in my life, I consciously isolate myself. My social media presence dwindles, the TV gets turned off, the chatter stops - unfortunately, even blogging stops. All in effort to take a step back, lull my mind and preserve my energy.


Destressing and decompressing has been my main priority all month - but when I had to expose myself to the outside world, I consumed many moments of joy. Such as:

COFFEE & WINE


For the past week, I've been trying to meet my personal blog quota for March. It's been tough y'all. I've spent countless days, chin in hand, overthinking my next topic. Blank-faced with my fingers on the home row, I could not find a topic to tickle my creative fancy for the life of me.

So, I had this bright idea to look through my phone's camera roll for a "muse" - and pictured above, is the best I could come up with.


You're probably wondering why my nightstand is hosting both coffee and wine (simultaneously). At this point, it wouldn't make sense - but it will come together in due time (deflection at it's best) 


Anyway. I find myself to be an extremely deep thinker, sometimes to a fault - so I feel like it behooves me to vocalize the meandering of my mind. Most of my posts normally come from something -  a random thought, a charming conversation or a song that permeated strong vibes within. But this week had me feeling like my writing well had dried up. Very seldom do I have nothing to write about, very seldom do I, Laura Renee have nothing to say - so this was a telltale sign that I needed to fine-tune the art of my freestyle writing.

GOOD MOURNING


This morning I woke up in the mood to hear some India.Arie. Although she's something like amazing, she's normally not on my daily musical rotation. Nonetheless, I happily dug through the crates to rekindle the flame with those old songs that did my heart so well back in the day. Hopping out of bed, I turned on my Bluetooth speaker, pumped up the volume and commenced with my day. The first song that played was "Good Mourning" - which was featured on Testimony: Volume 1 Life & Relationship, circa 2006.


The song is about a relationship that came to an end and her (ever so lovely) introspective, healing process after all was said and done. Although the consistent acoustics and beautiful progressions deserve a round of applause on their own - the lyrical content, delivered by her honey-coated voice is what really sets the song on fire. Give it a listen!

HELLO, THIRTY-ONE.


Nine days ago, my favorite day of the year came - my birthday! Normally, I would bask in zealous anticipation of March 5th with set plans, outfits and birthday hashtags - but this year was a little different for me.

Perhaps it was because I already reached the milestones of 21, 25 and 30, so 31 wasn't as exhilarating this go round. On top of that, I was moving, facing a deadline-driven project at work, dealing with my convenient monthly visitor and trying not to lose my mind at the same time. Responsibilities (and hormones) definitely had my birthday taking a backseat.

DATING IS HARD


Happy February, lovers!

In just a few days, one of the most dreaded holidays of the year will be back like it never left - that's right, Valentine's Day. Ah, the fanfare. The pressured dinner reservations, cheesy greeting cards and unsavory, overpriced boxes of chocolate.


If you're thinking that this post is a bitter, "bah humbug" ode to Saint Valentine, you're actually wrong.


When it comes to Valentine's Day, I'm often indifferent. I wake up and treat it like any other day, business as usual. To be honest, I cannot even bring myself to remember what I did last year - and as I think about it, it's probably because I'm normally always single on this cherished, fourteenth day of February.


I'm sure I'm not the only one either. Many of the most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes spend this holiday (and many other holidays) by their lonesome. Because...dating is hard!

THE FLOWER THAT BLOOMS IN ADVERSITY


Pictured above is a méihuā (mei - hua) - which is commonly known as a Plum Blossom. The tree originated in China and is known to produce beautiful, white and blush-hued flowers along with sweet, plum fruit that ripens upon the arrival of spring. In Asian culture, the Plum Blossom Tree is cherished for its vibrant colors, rich fragrance, and ethereal presentation - but its true significance is way more beloved than the fruit it may bear.

CHEERS TO FORTY YEARS

Happy Wednesday!

Today is not just an average Wednesday, today is my sister's birthday! Not just any birthday either, today marks 40 years of life for Naresh Hasana [Nuh-resh Ha-sah-nuh].

I've always loved the uniqueness behind my sister's name. I'm not quite sure if my mom already had a name nice and polished for her arrival, but post-delivery (and spur of the moment) - my mother decided to name my sister after the female Obstetrician that birthed her.

The name Naresh is of Hindu origin (and traditionally a male name) which means, "King of Kings".
How awesome is it to be affirmed royalty every day? Nice call, mommy!

THE PROBLEM WITH SOCIAL MEDIA


About 15 years ago, we were introduced to social media. Simply put, social media is a series of online platforms used to connect you with a community of users, to share information in a public forum. It started with Friendster, then Myspace and lo and behold, the avantgarde of the social media wave - Facebook. Since then, the momentum of social networking has become a force to be reckoned with. At this moment, there are 91.6 billion social media users out there. Evidently, the relevancy that it displays in our world is unquestionable. I mean, the President of the United States has the time to actually engage in numerous Twitter rants throughout the day, on top of running the country - social media is kind of a big deal.

Since its debut, the rise of social media has come to be favorable for many reasons - it gives us all a voice, it spreads awareness about social issues, current events are presented at the speed of light and it's a genius marketing tool for businesses and entrepreneurs.


However...


Over time, social media has come to be more unhealthy than helpful to our quality of life. I know that mindlessly scrolling through your timeline periodically seems quite harmless, but it can slowly chip away at our behaviorism and mental health. I, personally engage in social media casually, as I enjoy connecting with my friends and family. But as of late, it's gotten to be a little too heavy for me (I'll tell you why.)

TWENTY SEVENTEEN - TRIPS

I love Atlanta, it's been my home for nearly 25 years. Since 1993, the city I love has majorly progressed and is now known to be the "Hollywood of the South" (stop moving here, we full). As much as I love the ATL, occasionally I like to venture out and explore other what other cities have to offer. This past year, I was able to acquainted with new places as well as revisit some of my favorites. Here's a rundown of a few: