In This House


“In this house” LOL. If you’ve spent any time in groups for parents of college aged kids, you’ll see this phrase used a lot. Sometimes in a hokey meme, sometimes used as a sort of creed by a certain brand of Mama Bear. IN THIS HOUSE, WE LOVE/WORK/PLAY/PRAY HARD you get the gist. Like a mission statement. Those groups are better than most reality shows, by the way. I had no idea how many parents use Life360 to track their adult children. 

But that’s beside the point today. 

Today, my point is this: I’m leaving this house. Our house. The ramshackle rental that provided a roof over my head and the heads of my four young kids for just about 12 years. 

I knew this day was coming, knew it from the time my shaky hand signed the lease. Nothing is forever, right? Especially when you’re renting. 

Knowing something is coming is a lot different from having the exact date of when that something is actually arriving. The expiration date on this particular home is April 1, 2022. 

My landlord, who has been written about a few times in this old blog, came over Sunday night and we had a nice talk. He’s no spring chicken (as he’d readily nod and agree, lol) and his health has not been great. He had tears in his eyes when he told me that he and his wife have made the decision to sell. 

Me? I had tears in my eyes, too. Also on my cheeks and down the front of my shirt and surely a few soaked into the rug beneath my feet. I sobbed, of course. As I said, this was a sure thing. This was the end game that we knew was inevitable. But just knowing the timeframe, knowing the exact end date was a wee bit gutting. 

Dave and I talked for a long time. We laughed and cried a little and reminisced. We cackled over the time I wrote him the very first rent check- it’s been $1650.00 a month since day one, and that first check was written for $1600.00. When I handed it to him, he looked at it, then said “Oh, actually it’s 1650.” And my dim ass replied, “Ahh, I bet I have a couple quarters in my purse.” Seriously. Poster child for naïveté, folks.

After Dave left, I made a martini. Of course I did. And I wept. Walter had a front row seat to that Sunday night extravaganza, lucky boy. I’ve made the Miss Havisham comparison here before but that night I did some deep role playing, minus the wedding dress (and the riches, of course). It was ugly and raw. I had another martini which means there were two martinis total which also means my mission to numb was successful.

I gave myself 24 hours to wallow. Wallowed on the couch, wallowed in my bed. Wallowed like a champion! On Tuesday I woke up feeling better. And hungry! Wallowing kills the appetite. 

Here’s my shoutout to a few people: the besties, of course, who once again had to deal with a smaller but still pretty mighty mental crisis from me. Luckily they are experienced in this sort of situation and know how to handle it. They know that my first and most visceral reaction to news of major change is a doozy. It’s panic laced with fear, tinged with sadness. They listened. Which was what I really needed. They tried to calm me, which I also really needed. And last night, there was a quick dinner at the Anchor Bar for fish and chips which is ALWAYS NEEDED. 

Second shoutout is to my babies. My kids. I sent out a group text telling them and in their sweet, individual ways they commiserated. One son replied simply, “Damn.” Another asked if this meant I’d start looking into finally buying a house. Yet another immediately began researching grants and loans for first time home buyers. And the very practical one made a list of To Do’s for his mom. It’s been said before but it always bears repeating: these kids are such gifts. I love them way beyond the moon and back. 

Third shoutout? My therapist. As luck would have it, we had an appointment scheduled for Tuesday and she not only talked me off the ledge, she managed to pull me back and zoom out on the myopic dystopian vision I’d created in my head. 

Because, as I’m learning in therapy (OMG I’m learning so much you guys, it’s incredible) we are made up of many parts. When she first brought this up and had me acknowledge my different parts it was super awkward and I actually thought to myself  “what is this woo shit and how can I pretend to go along with it?”. But I’ll be damned. She was right. And this shit, woo or not? It’s working. 

One of my parts is the same chick who, 12 years ago, was penniless and about to be homeless with four grade school aged kids. She (me, lol, it’s still hard for me to do this) ran on pure fear and adrenaline for years. She’s the part who freezes when danger is detected. This is the part of me that instantly decided I was going to be homeless and living in my car with a 16 year old dog. This is the part of me that threw her hands up in the air and said “Enough. I’m done. I cannot do this again.” Because she is stuck back there. Iced in a frozen lake of uncertainty, unable to do much more than pound on that impenetrable, frigid surface with reddened cold fists. She is permanently afraid. And with good reason, you know?

So the therapist had me try to get allll the parts together to help that one. And it sort of worked. The scales were lifted from my eyes, so to speak, and I was able to step back and see that all is not lost. I’m still fucking terrified, but not in an “end of times” sort of way. More like “this is going to be a challenge but it’s not impossible and most likely, will not lead to me and Walter sharing the tiny Subaru (what? A Subaru? Yes! All of my parts got a new(er) car. Details later, I promise. Can’t wait to introduce you to Lil Prezzy)

So my assignment was to honor and hold this part for all the grief and fright she’s carried for allll the parts allll these years. And to understand why that part is like this. 

Trauma brain is real. And it’s freaking wild. 

Also: I’m not too proud to admit that for a few thankfully brief moments I went back to Divorce Rage. Yep, who knew that I could still muster up some anger towards that dusty monster who put me and the kids into such a precarious situation all those years ago? Okay so we all knew but still. It was weird to have his face pop into my brain again. I thought of his stupid self and his stupid wife sitting in their stupid million dollar home without worrying about packing up and finding shelter and leaving what has become comfortable and secure. But then I remembered that I have a heart. One that works. And I let that shit go. Cue the song, I guess. 

Today I’m okay. Today this news still hurts, still pokes with cold fingers, still whispers “the end is nigh, bitch” but today I’m able to understand and cope better than the day before. That’s what those of us in the therapy world call PROGRESS 😂

Oh, about the pic at the top of the post: it popped up in my Facebook memories the day after sweet Dave gave me the news about the house. I don’t remember under what context I had saved it, or if I even shared it anywhere. But it came along just when it was needed. 

I am low key dreading the rest of this chapter. Going to keep reading, though. I hope you’ll join me. 


Little Ditty ‘Bout My Martini Glass


Ahhh. There it is. That’s my martini glass. THE martini glass. It’s a single solitary glass, not part of a set. I found it at a thrift store (SHOCKER) for less than a dollar, a few years back. 

It’s solid. It has heft. Girth 😂. It’s simple and serves a purpose and while it’s not something I’d grab if the house caught fire in the middle of the night, it is something I’d grab if there was a smallish disaster and we had time to go back in.

You all know me by now, so you are painfully aware that I put a lot of significance in random everyday objects. The bowl! A box of hodgepodge paperwork. An old alarm clock. What can I say? In this whackadoo brain of mine, pretty much everything has a degree of meaning and sometimes, a story. 

Here’s the story of my martini glass.

Last year, my dad was dying. He was in hospice at his home, and despite a number of years of estrangement, I was welcomed back into the fold to help Dad get through his last task on this planet. I was honored- felt lucky to be there. And those 7 weeks were the hardest and best and saddest and most love-filled days I have been through. 

And I doubt I would have made it through if it weren’t for my two besties. Cringe! Old lady using dated slang! LOL. But, my besties are truly that. My bitches, the three musketeers, whatever you want to call them…they’re the best. They know the absolute worst about me, and still want to hang out. They deal with my incessant texts about the asshole in my neighborhood who cannot stop blowing his leaves. They talk me off the ledge at least once a week. They trust me. I trust them. 

So, these besties and I have a years and years-long tradition of reserving Friday nights for each other. For real, I’m sitting here trying to remember when Fridays became Homie Night but it’s just…always been? 

To quote those feathered foxes of Loverboy on MTV circa 1981, Everybody’s Workin for the Weekend and our little cluster of three is no exception. Sometimes, the only thing that gets me through the week is that sparkly, twinkling, far-away glint called Friday Happy Hour. Whether we’re in my living room or in a cozy booth at Yard House, it is one of the highlights of the week.

So- back to hospice. Although I didn’t make every Happy Hour during those weeks, I did attend a couple. One night, about halfway through Dad’s ordeal, we decided to go to this amazing Thai place, Lemongrass. It’s been one of our favorites for ages because the food is SO GOOD. Seriously. Locals? They’re takeout only now but may I recommend the Pad Thai, the Lemongrass Special Fried Rice and the Wild Curry (with fried tofu OMG). Ha! It’s currently 6:30 a.m. and I’m longing for it. 

Anyway. There is one thing I don’t like about Lemongrass: they don’t have proper martini glasses. Part of the Friday ritual, for me, is a dirty martini. Extra olives and if they have some blue cheese all up in them, even better. But please, for the purists, have a decent glass. The ones they use are those weird little bowl types, not sure what their official name is but they’re hard to drink out of and the aesthetics are just plain wrong. 

That Friday, I was spent. Emotionally, physically, every-ally. And I wanted a martini out of a normal glass. So, I wrapped my beloved thrift store glass in some tissue and stuck it in a little gift bag (happy Friday from me to me lol). I’m sure it’s against rules and weird archaic Minnesota laws or something, but with everything else in my world doing a slo-mo crash and burn, all I wanted was a good filthy martini sipped out of a passable martini glass. I figured the worst they could say is “Nah”. And I’d still be shoving noodles in my face so that was an acceptable loss. I’m all about the risk-taking, you guys. 

We were seated and were catching up with each other when the server approached our table. The other two gave their orders and then it was my turn. I pulled out the gift bag and withdrew the glass. “Okay” I began, “this is going to sound weird but I have a small favor to ask.” And as I quickly summed up, well, EVERYTHING I of course started to weep. 

This is where many servers would likely roll their eyes or go on autopilot and start questioning their life choices. But our server…she also got misty eyed. She said, and I’m kind of spacing out what exactly took place, but something along the lines of “you can certainly pour your drink into that glass when nobody is looking”. She put her hand on my shoulder, not in a creepy no-boundaries way but in a kind, loving manner.

And that’s what I did. Super stealthily, I’m sure. But it did happen and out of all the shit that went down during those agonizing weeks, this memory stands out. 

Oh, and that server? She also insisted on buying the martini for me. Yes, I cried some more. The tears are always on call, people. Always ready! 

One thing I’m learning in therapy is how our brains work. Mine, in particular, works differently than most due to the stacks of trauma that are stored in there. I’d like to think that even without having gone through what I’ve gone through, my brain would still be a little quirky. A bit unconventional. 

Attaching emotion and memories to just about every object in one’s life is surely the basis for every episode of Hoarders but I think it’s also a way for people like me to remember when life didn’t hurt. When something as innocuous as a heavy secondhand glass holds not only my beloved cocktail but also a reminder of the kindness that exists in this volatile world.

Cheers, friends. 

PS yes that’s the fabulous Hannah Waddingham in Ted Lasso on the television. I’m rewatching it. We’ll chat about that later.


Middle Aged Woman, Interuppted


Oh hey there! It’s been a minute, right? I know this is the part where I present the binder full of excuses, and fill you in on everything that’s been happening since…yikes, when was my last post here? Just checked. Since October 22, 2020. 

A year.

365 days! Actually, 370-ish days. Oof. 

As I was saying, this would be the point in the post where I tell you why I quit writing. Why I suddenly stopped posting on the Hausfrau facebook page (aka Jennifer Ball, Writer)(lol). 

That would be a waste of your time, and quite frankly, mine as well. I’m going to do something very uncharacteristic and just jump in like we’ve been hanging out together here uninterrupted, okay? This has been said before but my god I miss writing and I miss hearing from you five or six dedicated readers and honestly I really miss unloading my never ending brain dialogue here. Are any of you like that? Do you have a constant narration going in your head? Maybe it’s just me. 

Anyway. Hi. 

I’m currently on a long term disability leave from work. And as grifty as that makes me feel (it probably sounds griftier than that) it’s something that has been a long time coming, and something that has been desperately needed for a while. I keep telling myself, “that’s why they have these policies in place, ding dong, stop feeling guilty” but as some of you know, guilt rides shotgun most days. And on the days someone else like anxiety or self loathing is in that spot, she’s in the backseat. 

I didn’t get physically injured. I’m still healthy in body. Mind? Ooooh my friends. 

I am not okay. And probably haven’t been for a very long time. 

Don’t misunderstand; it’s not like I had an obvious breakdown. I wasn’t screaming in the middle of town square, I didn’t strip naked and run down the aisles of Costco (although that would be a hell of a way to get those spanakopita sample gobblers out of the way, right?). I didn’t try to harm myself or anyone else. 

This was a quiet one. It was conceived ages ago and the gestation was finally complete this summer. Let me tell ya, labor was a bitch.

I am tired of the word TRIGGER for a plethora of reasons but it’s applicable in this case. There was definitely a trigger, a defining moment. If we’re going to continue along with the pregnancy analogy, what happened this past June was the membranes being stripped and me being sent home to see how thing progressed.

Not sure of the legalities or confidentiality of disclosing the event that pushed me over the edge, but here at the Hausfrau blog it’s always been “my story, my truth, my right to tell it” (remember when my ex found this little confessional? Yeah, I became an armchair attorney after that, ha). And I am a public school employee and as far as I know, our employment contracts are not private. So. Here’s the scoop.

I’ve written before about how I love my job. That’s the truth. I do. Being a school secretary might sound like a dead end road to a lot of people, like a meaningless and low-end career. It kind of is, but it also isn’t. It is not a way to wealth but it is a way to connection with community, with families, with amazing kids and the best coworkers anyone could want. It provides excellent health insurance and until recently, stability and security. 

Pretty sure I’ve written here before about the challenges of making ends meet on a secretarial income. It’s not always easy. And that was before Covid. 

Our entire work landscape has been mutating and been reinvented since the country came to a slow motion halt in March of 2020. Almost everyone I know has had some significant change in how or where or what they do to earn a living. 

In our school district, we were sent home. And stayed there until the next school year began. It was, as all of you know, surreal and unsettling and more than a little scary. I mean, who could have called this one? A pandemic? Yes, there were scientists and researchers and doctors warning us about this for years but surely I’m not the only one who thought that was a worst-case, dystopian scenario. HAVE YOU WATCHED CONTAGION? 😂

So, during the lockdown, we stayed home like we were supposed to be. We checked our emails, we texted, the badass teachers learned how to teach virtually overnight. We stumbled along and somehow made it through. During that time our little clerical contract was being negotiated. Communication was spotty. The people in the association let us know, periodically, how it was going. And then it was settled. Boom. End of story.

Only, there was one very small but very significant change made. We have always received a bonus of sorts, in our last school year paycheck. It’s not Tesla buying money, but for people who are not paid a heck of a lot, it certainly came in handy. Especially for me, since my summer position had been eliminated due to Covid and a restructured summer program. The summer job was one I’d had for years, a full time gig that kept the paychecks coming. And one that, after I had to fight for a couple years, provided me with vacation days and extra sick days. 

During negotiations that bonus was restructured and renamed. No longer a bonus, it became a stipend. A restriction on who was eligible for the bonus stipend was written in. It had historically been for all full-time employees. 30 hours a week or more, you are considered full-time. Which I’ve been for years. 

They added a single line in the contract, specifically under the stipend section, that only people working 1300 hours or more would receive the stipend. It stated “full time employees working over 30 hours a week + 1300 hours a year are eligible”. Yes, I probably should have known exactly how many hours I work. But come on. We were under stay-at-home orders, there was a shitshow countrywide division happening, my dad died, menopause hit, I HAD COVID, the world was basically on fire. 

Anyway. I ended up only working around 1260 hours in the 20-21 school year. Yep. I missed it by less than a couple weeks of work. And that was due to my hours being involuntarily cut. So. No stipend, bonus, whatever you want to call it…I didn’t get it.

For the record, I was okay without it. Thanks to my side hustle, Poshmark, I had been able to survive a second summer of no work (summer of 2020 I did file for unemployment which was another red tape rodeo but we can gab about that later). I was okay but I was concerned and upset. It didn’t feel ethical. It didn’t feel like the “kind, equitable, empathetic” values that our district espouses. 

It felt a lot like the tactics my ex enlisted during our divorce. 

Knock knock!

Who’s there?


Already in a stressed, anxious state of mind, the stipend circus and the gaslighting responses I received not only opened the little trapdoor to the years of well-hidden and not-so-well-hidden trauma and fear and anger and all of the other feelings I’d managed to stuff away, it ripped that goddam door right off its freaking hinges. 

You know the scenes in horror movies when portals to hell or other demonic spaces open wide and a howling, ethereal parade of ghosts and goblins flow out like neon green lava? That was basically my brain in June of 2021. 

It was not a good time. It felt like reliving all of the past shit: the bruises and shattered trust left by my gross stepdad. The gut punch of being left to care for four little kids with no job, no money. The crappy relationships with my parents. Being lied to and shit on by people who were supposed to be on my side, who were supposed to care for, and love me.

It was a summer of depression. Of nightmares. Flashbacks. Panic. It was a summer where I felt as if life was no longer working for me and I pondered my options. I had a plan, one that thankfully I was either too scared or too brave to follow through with. 

And as the coming school year drew closer, these feelings intensified. My friends and family were becoming increasingly concerned. The two women I’ve been blessed with as besties confessed to me, at a later time, that they had considered finding emergency assistance for me. Sleep was a joke: like a newborn I slept in tiny increments and woke to cry and feed at all hours. Panic attacks sprang up at really fun times, like on my daily walks with Walter, and while driving. 

I decided that it was finally, finally time to deal with me. 

For the past however many years- 40 have passed since I last ducked under my bed to avoid the punches of a monster, 12 or so have slid by since losing everything but my life and my kids in a nightmare divorce- I’ve done a decent job of pretending. Pretending that I’m okay. I’m tough! I’m resilient! I’m Miss Jenny, dammit! Dogs love me, kids love me, I had everyone fooled. Nobody really knew what was always there, just out of sight beneath the masks of Brave Single Mom or Always Happy Secretary. Plucky Survivor, lol. My goodness I had a veritable Halloween store, didn’t I? 

Well. That’s over. No more masks. No more pretending. No more burying feelings like a dog hiding treats in the yard. 

After a false start and a ridiculously long waiting period, I’ve found a therapist who is trained to deal with PTSD and other traumas. I’m abiding by my employment contract and taking advantage of the policies that are in place to assist with situations like mine. 

For the first time, in what feels like a lifetime, I’m taking care of me. 

It feels so weird and so good to be in this little corner of the internet again. 

Thank you for being here with me. 

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