Renting in Richmond

photo(11)Besides taking an emotional toll, breakups for couples who live together is cause for a chain of events. I’m two months through my own and I’m still trying finding it impossible to get my shit together. Together, my ex and I created a home so naturally, we purchased furniture, renovated both bathrooms, and got two dogs.

Deciding who gets that gorgeous knife set her parents got us, how we share the dogs, and the ultimate … my move out has rocked our worlds.

During our split, I’ve been searching for my perfect, bright Fan apartment. And I was still searching until this afternoon.

Navigating the Richmond rental market is a call for the strong and brave. From the places I saw and the landlords I’ve encountered, this has been comical … and a little depressing.

My search began with a dump of a place off Monument Avenue in a older multi-complex building, which shall remain nameless. For $650, I could have gotten a 360 degree touch-every-appliance-kitchen, 1 2 foot closet, and a rank-smelling lobby. I passed. I called my best friend on the way home in tears.

Initially, I only wanted to be in the Fan and wanted to live by myself. The people, history, and atmosphere topped my list but I was still open to other areas. The next two places were off Park Avenue, one of my favorite streets. However, neither was a fit, one was more than the advertised price and the other felt just … creepy. Windowless bedrooms seem to be a trend and I just can’t wrap my head around waking up in the dark each morning.

After seeing a handful of places, none being a fit, I knew my place would be hard to find so I decided to sublet an apartment off Grace Street for a couple of months so I could make a less-rushed decision.

I call this my “launch pad”.

My sublet is wonderful and everything I was looking for – historic and big but the landlords are another story plus, it’s not pet friendly. In my one encounter with them, I felt like a 29 year old single loser. After explaining to the lady landlord that I was separating from my partner, she immediately asked questions about him owning our house – “is he going to buy you out”? I didn’t feel the need to correct her (did I mention she’s Russian) especially after she learned my age and told me “my daughter, your same age and she FINALLY get married”.

Thanks. A lot.

Going back to my home search, I decided something needed to change so I branched my home search to Churchill, Downtown, and Shockoe Bottom. There, I looked at 4 places  – half of them went to other prospective renters moments after I toured and the others were a little sketch.

Every day, I scoured Craigslist, Hot Pads, and Padmapper. I was becoming a little frantic.

Some might say rental hunting is silly since you’re a renter. For me, it’s a new chapter. It’s a place for me to live while I hit my restart button so I take it pretty serious.

Today, I toured a newly built warehouse-turned-apartments in Shockoe Bottom. I looked at a few units – one in particular had skylights, concrete floors, a swanky kitchen and was sold. I don’t know if I fell in love with it or if my search was exhausted.

I’m excited to finally know I have a place for my next chapter. Although it’s super expensive, I’d rather pinch pennies than deal with a judgmental landlord, share a space with a stranger, or suffer old house disasters.

So my next phase will begin June 1. It’ll be bittersweet and full of new change.   And, if it doesn’t work out, if I choose that it’s not for me, I can move.  Lucky thing for a renter vs. a home owner is you can always change your environment.

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Cutting Cords

medium_10011881004There are moments when the universe hurls signs at you and you still manage to keep ignoring them.

For 2 years, this happened.  It all came to an end a month ago.

Today marks the 25th day of my breakup. I felt more together on day 1.

That night, during the Winter Olympics, these words suddenly escaped my mouth …

“This is not working. We both know this. We can’t do this anymore.”

I never thought I could muster the courage to say these words out loud. Of course, I had rehearsed this conversation for a year on my drives to work, when she deflated my hopes for a fun weekend, when she wouldn’t hold my hand back, and late at night in bed (feeling so distanced) but vocalizing it took on a whole other feeling. One that was unexpected.

Breakups are the most underrated pain – even if you’re the one that brought it on. It’s the kind of I-feel-fucking-crazy then what-kind-of-mistake-did-I-make whirlwind of emotions.

Like others going through the same ordeal, I find myself trying to keep busy, immersed in all kind of healing prospectives (podcasts, self-help articles, meditation, you name it), and at the same time looking for a new place to live, keeping my sanity together at work, and figuring out what to do with our dogs and that Mexico vacation we booked for May.

After combining energies (because you do this in a relationship) with “your person” and building everything that comes with it (the sex, the same dinner spots, to the home you both create), you’re now forced to retrain your thinking on it all.

After 5 years, we just couldn’t get it right. Of course, I’m being kind and I did get hurt (this seems to be an ongoing trend) – there’s so much more to our story.  But, every relationship has a story that deserves its own book.

For anyone going through a their own mind-boggling break up … you’re right, this fucking sucks.

In my search for some kind of inner peace, I find things to temporarily relive my truffle-eating, sad-playlist-listening, and journal-scribbling self. Here’s the latest and a perfect end to my rambling, from one of my favorite sites, Autostraddle.com.  You can find the link here or read below.

“Even though sometimes the world seems about six sizes too small for our pain, the amazing shit is that no matter how deep purple the bruise is, no matter how dark and overwhelming and miserable and worthless it all seems the world will get a fraction of an inch bigger every day.

Really, every fucking day.

And you won’t notice it for a long time until suddenly, one day, it’s only five times too small for your pain and then four and then the world will just keep getting larger and larger in comparison to your shattered heart and eventually it will be able to hold it and then it will outgrow it.

And your pain will be just a speck in your world.

It is supposed to feel like the end of the world right now. That, my beautiful dearest, is how you know that it was worth it. That is why it was one of the relationships that shook your core and after which you will never be the same. That is how you know that you are growing up and are experiencing shit rather than living safely in risk-free choices….

The world is supposed to feel as though it is ending and you are supposed to know only in the most dormant recesses of the backmost corner of your soul that it will not be like this forever.

You are supposed to feel acutely and lucidly that everything is over that your purpose for life is worthless and that not even cheesy pasta and Molly Ringwald movies are going to make you smile, and you are supposed to know opaquely and elusively and abstractly that everything is not over and that your purpose in life is so much huger than you can ever imagine and is still saturated with value and that you will eat pesto and read Stephen Dunn and live in Manhattan and have stacks of waffles at corner diners with girlfriends and spend inordinate amounts of money on bath products and sunbathe on the roof reading trashy novels and you will will will will will will will love again.

I did not think that I was going to be able to ever breathe without shaking again after J broke up with me, let alone successfully love and fuck again.

That is what you are supposed to think.

I cried hysterically for months.

I wept so much that I had stewardesses on planes ask me if I needed oxygen, I had waitresses refuse to serve me, I had strangers approach me with offers of help.

Then I stopped.

Then I started again and stopped again and started again and then stopped for good…

… I promise you will survive, and with more grace than you can now imagine and that you will have more grit and vision because of it.”

photo credit: Free Grunge Textures – www.freestock.ca via photopin cc

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Supporting the Unsupported: Dollars for Daughters

It’s been four years and still I remember the cold sweats caused by fear/freaking out/anxiety/shame/fillintheblank when I told my parents I left a letter for them to read after staying at their house one weekend.  The note was my un-confrontational attempt to come out.

I wasn’t worried about my dad – I think he silently knew all along (he jokingly swears he thought he’d pass a “gay gene” to my brother and I), it was my mom’s reaction that petrified me.  The fear that consumed me stemmed from her anticipated rejection, which served true.  I remember feeling 100% prepared when she paused communication with me after reading the letter. Although she had plenty of signs, I’m sure it was a devastating pill to swallow. Most momma’s (especially the church-grown-christian kind like mine) wants their kid to be “normal” and for their little girls to blossom into soft and patient women that marry well and manage a home, children, and a anything else that might come her way.  Unfortunately, my mom can’t see that I’m no different – except the traditional marriage part (and maybe I’m a little strong willed, too).

Cutting to my point, I came across a local campaign called Dollars for Daughters that brought emotions of maternal rejection back to me.  This cause was started by Abby and her wife Jesse when Abby’s mother updated her profile picture to read “I support the Biblical Definition of Marriage” when her daughter (and millions of other folks around the world) changed profile pictures to the red HRC logo in support of gay marriage.

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 6.20.52 PM copyIf there’s something that’s jerked my heart recently (besides recent episodes of The Little Couple) it’s this.  Whether you’re a mom, daughter, son, uncle, brother, etc. the support of your LGBTQ loved one, family member, or friend is the best thing. Ever.  The pain of intentional anger, embarrassment, and disapproval is devastating, especially from your own parent.

Jess and Abby’s campaign, Dollars for Daughters accept donations (even little as $10) to support LGBTQ efforts in the community.  If its the good karmic payback, the fact you can donate as much as two Starbucks lattes will cost you, or that you just want to support something good, do it or read about it here.

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A Happy Medium

UnicornWe’d thought making new [quality] friends would be simple.  Unfortunately, for my lady and I, it’s proved far more difficult than we imagined.  Not sure how many times we’ve wondered out loud “they have to be somewhere” “I know they’re here” … like we’re searching for a mystical unicorn.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Debbie Downer and I’m not desperate.  I have amazing friends (one I believe I was born in this lifetime just to be her soul sister) but they all live over a thousand miles away.  I talk to them often, but my phone is a mediocre substitution for connection, random adventures, and having an excuse to drink at 12 pm on Saturdays.  I also have a few friends here and there, but not folks I’d consider a true friend.

The older I get and the more years that I’m with my girlfriend (going on 4 now, that’s 11 in lesbian years), I’d gladly pass on acquaintance-like friends and invest my time into getting to know someone or a couple who’s worth that investment and vice versa. This is the hard part if you’re fairly new to a city, especially the city I live in where nearly every person belongs to a clique – branded and sworn, not to let any outsiders in.

The local lesbian bar is a perfect example.  Nestled in the small space, nearly every Saturday night, you’ve got the sporty dykes, the ghetto-fabuluous ladies, the 50-something’s, and then there’s the Richmond lesbian clan (as my girlfriend and I like to call them).  This group is everywhere (yes, mostly group sporting events and drinking establishments) and we even know a couple of these.  Apparently it’s an exclusive group (ha) … almost humorous, high school never (ever) ends.

Oh don’t get me wrong, we’ve found a few “friends”. One couple (we were beaming with overrated excitement when we met them), seemed aligned with our sense of humor and relationship dynamic. Too good to be true.  After exchanging numbers, we quickly realized we met the “flaky couple” – making plans and not following through.  We’ve also met a few crazy people – gay and straight. Why is it so difficult? We’re not asking for much, just a happy medium – a couple of good people to get to know and grow with.

Maybe we seem unapproachable … too many arm crossings and whispered conversations (that’d be a lot since I’m basically deaf) might give us a snob-like facade? Not going to the right places?  We’re everywhere , living life (unlike some lesbians who can’t seem to budge from one another’s vagina) – vacations out of the state, inside the state, at the Farmer’s Market, trips to Home Depot, volunteering, gays bars, straight bars, church … seriously.

After opening our minds and letting go of a wild goose chase, we’re letting everything be.  I know good people are out there.

And I’m sure they’re just like us, wondering where the hell we are.

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A watery mess

Before

Before

4 weeks ago, after grubbing down on some Sunday brunch, my girlfriend and I came home to a kitchen of standing water and a valve gushing cold water (the culprit). I couldn’t help but laugh as I stupidly attempted to place my tiny thumb over the ruptured valve. The icy water continued to gush – my thumb attempt didn’t work.

Second later, the water slowed to a stop. My lady had found the water shut off to the house. Smart cookie.

The insurance adjuster came for a thorough inspection of the aftermath and quickly determined all of our downstairs floors were ruined. Hardwoods, tile, carpet, plus a few kitchen cabinets.

During

During

Fast forward to now, we’ve got the fridge in the living room, dishwasher and oven in the pup’s room (sometimes we call it their nursery), and contractor tools scattered through the house. We maxed out our lesbian allowed visits to Lowes, we’ve become a regular at Subway and Starbucks (no kitchen, guys). Plus, we see our dogs on the weekends at my girlfriend’s parents house, it sounds so very divorcee, right?

While the new hardwoods are acclimating (yes, wood floors have to nest) we’ll be shacked up in a extended stay hotel. I can’t wait.

The burning desire i have to be back in a kitchen is agonizing. I’ll gladly make a hotel kitchenette my temporary sanctuary.

On top of it all, My girlfriend is in her 9th week of police academy. The phrase police academy meant nothing until recently. Sore muscles, constant hunger, homework-filled nights, and strict morning regimes have taken over my girlfriend’s world.

The thing is, I have no complaints. I mean, it’s inconvenient and the timing’s all wrong but it’s life.

Bright side: updated floors, fresh paint, and a staycation in a local hotel.

Down side: Dogs aren’t home, eating out too much, and the tile that’s being replaced was what my baby girl chose and installed so she could make the kitchen of my dreams.

Our master bedroom has transitioned into our studio apartment, our sanctuary, and a big ass mess.

No tears have been shed and no fights have surfaced; were together on this.

Thank god for homeowners insurance, family that’ll willingly watch our pups, and the togetherness of our sanity.

P.s. – the cause of our mess? A defective pipe valve. It’s called Qest pipe. If you have it, I highly recommend replacing it.

Attempting to save the floors.

Attempting to save the floors.

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V.D. (fast and quick)

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Valentines Day … or what I call, “straight people holiday”.

I’ve heard rumors that gay V.D. is celebrated the day after  – whether this is true or not, my lady and I refuse to devote a day to “our love” (that should be everyday … right?!).

Instead, we’ll watch all of our straight friends become mildly disappointed when their high expectation gift (Jared, Edible Arrangement, Victoria’s Secret) aren’t met by their man.

You know that passive aggressive, “I’m really not expecting anything for Valentines Day but I can’t believe he got me BLANK or he didn’t get me shit”

Sheesh.

I’m not a Valentine sadist, promise.  I’m sure I’ll do something crafty (last minute, sketch or painting) to make her partake in a little Valentine joy but that’s something I’d do anyways.  I don’t need a Hallmark holiday to prove my adoration for my amazing girlfriend.

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Roommate, how awkward.

Rainbow RoommatesLike clockwork, this Holiday season was full of non-stop chaos.  I baked, wrapped, decorated, shopped (ugh), worked, and even found time to hit the gym.

My girlfriend and I didn’t get many chances to unwind and connect during the “most romantic holiday” (I’m sure that’s what Cosmo or some lame magazine calls it).  When we did get a few moments to embrace some type of sane-ness, a quick jolt from our wrestling dogs snapped us back into reality.

Even though my family’s over 1,000 miles away, I was happily welcomed and incorporated into my girlfriend’s big family Christmas Eve shindig at her Grandparents.  Trust me, this isn’t as awkward as you’d think.  Luckily for me, my girlfriend’s mom is pretty vocal (this is kind of an understatement) so all her aunts, uncles, and cousins know about our lesbianness. Except the grandparents. I’m pretty tolerable with this, but isn’t it awkward that I magically show up at close family gatherings?  Oh look it’s Aliese’s roommate again!

“Roommate”, otherwise known to the gays as the #1 title given to partners, girlfriends, and boyfriends when others find themselves in awkward explanations during introductions.

Hey, it’s not so bad…right?  A believable, quick fix title to make hetero and older generation folks feel your relationship is permissible. Ok, it sucks – but, sometimes (very rarely) I think I’d prefer another “roommate” introduction to avoid another uncomfortable and controversial altercation.   I’ve had one of these before, it’s not pretty.

Down the road, is the roommate title still going to hold validity when I’m still showing up to family Christmas, when  both have rings on our fingers, or a baby in my belly?  Can the whole co-habitation myth still exist?  It’s really not up to me, it’s on all the people that give us this falsified title.

So, I’ll redefine the noun for the rest of us…

Roommate [room-meyt] – It’s legitimate until a certain point.

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Guy: “If you ever turn straight, let me know”

My lady and I made an appearance at a co-worker’s party a couple of weeks ago.  After a few Legend Brown Ale’s (out of a keg, Solo cup style), this dreaded phrase was said.

“Ladies, you ARE the most beautiful lesbians ever.  My god. You know, if you ever turn straight, let me know”

Ah, if I had a dollar for every time I heard this type of statement (sometimes a question, i.e. “Are you SURE you’re a lesbian?  Certain?”) I would’ve been able to purchase the Lesbaru I longed for instead of the mediocre Hyundai.

This time was a little different because the guy was saying this to me and my girlfriend.  I had yet to experience this ridiculousness with her by my side … until now.  I didn’t know whether to burst into laughter or explode with a slew of sharp-tongued, complex words he’d ever understand (or remember).

Instead, I collected myself, smiled, and assured him I’d never become straight (and the same went for my lady). I also shouted “vote for equality” as we left the party and laughed about it the whole way home.

If we didn’t laugh, we’d just become bitter.  A part of me is silently bitter though.

Just because I look “normal” girls do, doesn’t earn entitlement for “bros” to boldly declare these moronic remarks.  I pride myself on being fairly selective in regards to making friends and picking places to hang out, so I haven’t faced this type of situation in a while.

I don’t anticipate a future where femme, pretty, or any lesbians [for that matter] to go a year without one of these awkward, annoying, and brainless comments.

I guess I’ve just embraced it.

I’ll call it “character building”.

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A tale of two ladies

As this is my first post, I feel obligated to introduce myself.

Hello there.  I’m 28 years old and I reside in Richmond, Virginia.  After being in the blogging world for a little over a year (I have a food blog found here) I’ve undergone some serious contemplation about creating something more personal.  So it’s happening starting now.

My lady and I have been together a little over three years.  It all started online – still saying this out loud is a little cray cray.  Luckily, when we finally met (airport style – very much like a movie) after four months of IMing, texting, and hundreds of hour long conversations, she was the person I had envisioned.  No creepy Catfish story here.  It really was love at first sight – saying this is cray cray, too.

After two years in our long distance relationship (I was in Texas she was in Virginia) it was inevitable … someone was bound to U-Haul (the epitome of the beginning of lesbian cohabitation).  I packed up my little life and drove two days to plant my roots in a city I’ve never known (that’d be Richmond, VA).  It’s still a little insane to know  life has changed because of two people.

Life is quirky but the unexpected (and sometimes expected) funnies of being a feminine, opinionated, lesbian who’s happens to be in a relationship with another fem lady is worth sharing.

I assure you, this blog is not meant to incessantly talk my “precious” relationship … I’ll leave that for straight people blogs (and their Pinterest-y recipes, arts and crafts, and living room decor tips).  Maybe my blog will be an outlet for someone else to relate (possibly, you?), maybe to change a mind or two about gay people, or I might get lucky and make you laugh and continue your reading pleasure.

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