About Me (Mommy Mels)

Feeling lonely? Start a dinner club!

I first heard of the idea of a dinner club from one of my great high school friends, who lives too far from me to ever join hers…

Dinner club?  How’s that work?  Do you do a theme?  I had so many questions; it sounded like so much fun and included my fav, wine.

These ideas coincided with the fact that my best friend kept telling me I needed to get involved in something.  She suggested an adult-sports league, fitness classes, something to get me meeting new people.  Finally, I came across this article:

I Started a Dinner Club and It Changed My Life

It’s a fabulous article detailing what one woman did for her dinner club, and the wonderful effects it had on her life.

I live pretty close to my job so I have local friends from work. My high school friends aren’t that close to me and are always busy.  My college friends are all over an hour away, although we do get together at least bi-monthly.  I was in need of some friends.

What I did have, however, were friends scattered here and there that were both local and fabulous.  I went through my contacts and I invited all women that I thought might be interested.

My first step was my interest email.  I received about 10 interest responses.  I invited women who I vibe with but don’t always have the chance to spend time with.  I invited one work friend who has one little girl and no other mom friends.  I invited my neighbor across the street because she’s the sweetest woman I know.  I reached out to friends wives and T-ball moms.  I invited one other single friend from high school.  I even invited the girl that does my facials.

From the interest email I started an invite.  I chose the theme, steak and potatoes, because I was going to host the first dinner club and I wanted to make it a little easy.  I ended up burning my reduction and setting off the fire alarm anyway.  It was perfect.  We ended up with 4 of us that first night and it was fabulous wine talk about men, husbands, kids, and womanhood.

The next Dinner Club we held was about a month later.  We had a fabulous dinner at one of our members river house… it was beautiful.  Collectively, we chose a Hawaiian theme.  I brought Hawaiian coleslaw and pineapple adult drinks.  This time we had 7 women.  Some were quiet, some were cooking, but the conversation and drinks were flowing.

We haven’t been able to get together since August because we all have difficult schedules.  I think what you need to have is a commitment that you keep to one another.  I am going to try to add some more women to our group and have something when I’m off for the holidays.  I am off in the summer so planning two dinner clubs was easy.  Throw me back into work and two small kids in school and it’s so easy to let it slide.  You need women (or men) who are willing to host as well.  Right now, we only have 2 people willing to host and that can be difficult.  I also like to invite people who may need an outlet like I did. I was in a “Summer of Mel” that involved of lot of travel and self-reflection.  I needed to be around positive vibes.  I got exactly that from my dinner club.

About Me (Mommy Mels)

Take the Trip

Recently, I took a trip to Ireland with two close friends.  We were given strict instructions by one of our mothers to “find ourselves” out there.  While I was in the thick of the trip, navigating our way around the country- or letting Jessica do so…it didn’t seem as though we found ourselves.  In hindsight, almost two months later…we found much more than that.

As a single mother who shares custody, I have more freedom to travel than other moms… Over the summer of 2019 I traveled a ton. I went to Seattle and Canada (for the first time) with my mom.  We also did some time at the beach as a family.  It wasn’t until two of my closest friends found themselves needing to travel, however, that we decided to “jump the pond.”  It was difficult being away from my kids that long, but it was transcending.

Jessica was in an interesting spot in her life and she’s one of the most supportive friends I’ve ever had.  She was bouncing around the idea of a road trip while her kids were on vacation.  My wheels started turning about mid-summer and I said, “Let’s jump the pond and drink Guinness in Ireland!”  Within a week we had purchased plane tickets, filled a new board on Pinterest, and created an Airbnb account.

We bought some converters and promised to only travel with a carry-on.  We brought clothes for all seasons but had no reason to bring shorts or flip flops.  We landed and breathed in.  Deep breaths.  Serenity.  Drinks.  Cocktails with egg whites.  Handsome bartenders with cute accents.  Green everywhere.  Cars on the wrong side of the road.  We never quite figured that out, and thank God I was able to talk her out of renting a car.

We spent a night in Dublin and then took a bus to Gallway.  Gallway is the most charming little town.  I highly recommend. We made friends quickly and received great tips on where to go from there… Our final night was also in Dublin.  We skipped Cork because I screwed up on a tour date to the Cliffs of Mohar.  We saw the cliffs, and breathed some more.  The most compelling idea I found there were the Guarda, or Irish Police.  They don’t carry guns, and you don’t see many of them.

When we returned, we felt good!  We had received that time away and that new, fun experience.  What I’ve gained from that trip since then is the reward I wasn’t anticipating.

I came back a better mother. I came back ready to fall in love again, finally.  I didn’t go on one date or really talk to any men all summer.  It was a cleanse.  My head was cleared of bad dating experiences that were holding me back from finding someone special.  I was also ready to return to work for a new year with new challenges.  My school year has faced numerous challenges.  The calm I found on my trip has prepared me for them.  The experience your body has when it’s taken out of its comfort zone and placed in a whole new environment is confounding.  It’s different than the beach or a beautiful resort.  It’s real, and a new kind of real.

Go find your new real.  Take the trip.  Leave the kids with your parents.  They need that time too.  I owe my ex for forcing me to get out of my comfort zone in terms of leaving my children for longer than a weekend.  My children missed me and embraced me when I returned.  I have also been forced to create a life outside of being a mother because my boys are with dad every other weekend…all weekend.  I’ve finally found peace with this and taken the bull by the horns.  Take the trip.

About Me (Mommy Mels)

Chronicles of Dating at 36

I came across this meme on the Gram that had me in tears:

It’s pretty accurate.  I also love updating my peeps on my dating life because it is a guarantee to have all of my friends hysterics. At our most recent girls night, my high school friends told me I need to start a podcast on this topic.  While it is humorous, I’m not sure I have that much material.  I need to have some guest bloggers weigh in on this topic as well.

The last year of dating for me was entertaining for sure.  Most of the fall I didn’t date.  I am sure I went on a couple dates, but I mostly flirted with a friend who kept me out of trouble. Oh- I did go on a few dates with an ex-lover.  He spent the whole weekend with me and then was engaged to someone else about 4 months later.  Poor girl has no clue.  I went on a couple more dates…come spring I met a fellow who refused to take his hat off and then accused me of trying to change him.  I saw recently that he put a “trump 2020” (the only time you won’t see me using correct capitalization) on his truck.  BULLET DODGED.  What’s sad is that he has a daughter and yet is promoting a racist, rapist.  He’s also in a new relationship.  The best part, I have an “fista” Gram account (as my students call it) for my fitness obsession and BOTH these fools have tried to follow me.  We’re not cool, just so we’re clear. Day Ones- am I forgetting anyone?

Red flags continued.  This is a total red flag for me- if you’re so happy with the woman your with, why are you trying to follow me on social media?  Neither will ever read this post- just exposing what’s out there in the land of the leftovers.

The last date I was on was the last day of school.  I’ve spent all summer in love with my children and traveling like a rolling stone.  There are no words for the positive effects this has had on me.  The connections I’ve made and maintained are saved for another post.

It’s so important to continue to recognize red flags and dodge the bullets that come in the form unstable men.  I have one more fabulous trip before I dive back into the job that I love.  I may, mayyyyy get back on the dating scene in the fall.  I have still only been single for 4 years.  I don’t want to look back 30 years from now and think that I didn’t give myself enough time to re-create myself after my divorce.  My children need me all of the time and they will get every fiber of my being that they request.

Most importantly, what is mine will find me.  It may be in 5 months, 5 years, or when I’m 50.  I’m not worried about it because my life is so full.  I’m going back to school to become a school psychologist because there is a overwhelming demand for this career.  I am fully positive that I will find love again and I will fulfill my dream of becoming the millionaire next door so I can enjoy all of the things my family has taught me to desire.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to sprinkle all of my dating experiences, that I simply can’t make up, into the world of my followers.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Lessons from Court

Pretty simple actually…this post is about the lessons I’ve learned from going back to court with my ex over a vacation.

1. Don’t go to court.  My kids were going on that vacation no matter what, so my family and I decided that we would fight it because it was a poor decision on my ex-husbands behalf.  I knew I wouldn’t win, but I wanted to set a precedent that if he would make bad decisions, I would fight them to protect my children.  This was a [relatively speaking] inexpensive lesson that I never need to revisit.  Letting a complete stranger make a decision for your family however, not worth it.

2. Judges are humans who don’t know you from Adam.  They don’t know your story.  They don’t know what poor decisions your ex will make, or that he doesn’t parent well, or that he doesn’t have positive role models in parenting.   They will say “50-50 custody order- he can take them on vacation.”

3.  Learn to get along.  It took 3 years but we have finally figured out how to get along.  We don’t see eye to eye- but my ex and I know how to come to the same decision.  It takes compromise and manipulation.  For example, it is very important to me that my children continue at the private school they go to… he doesn’t want to pay for it.  We have compromised over money to keep us both happy.  I don’t need his money- it’s my children’s right to receive support as I’ve mentioned before.  I cannot rely on support because my ex will do anything to keep it from us.  Currently he’s completely hiding his income because I have a wage withholding order and when he gets paid, I receive support.  If he was getting paid, I’d be receiving support.  (I’m not- yet he has money to make private payments to the state to us). That is a whole other story that deserves exposure of his despicable Mormon-run company…for another post.  Just trust me on this.  He hides money from us, puts his girlfriend and car payments before his children… but we still have to get along. The alternative is a complete stranger making a decision for your family.

4. When you have children with someone, you never have complete control over their lives.  We never have complete control, but I mean more like, where they are, where they live, where they stay etc.  There are two parents; in the eyes of the law, both have equal rights.  A father can require you send your small children on a plane to Minnesota if that’s where he moved for work.  You can fight him in court, but the judge will probably say the kids can go- and that’s on you if you let a stranger decide.  For example, my new(er) attorney laid it out very clear to me that there are 4 judges in Cecil County and some of them sent their kids to private school and some did not… so if I left that decision up to one of them, who knows what they would decide.

This was definitely a moment of change for me.  My kids were allowed to go to Hawaii despite my telling the judge that Dad has a drinking problem and doesn’t always require seat belts and life jackets.  She ordered he use them but there wasn’t someone in Hawaii to monitor that!  I had to let it go and I decided to spend this difficult time in Boston with my best friend of 20 years.  She made sure we were happy and relaxed, and I survived.  Without control.  It was good for me.  All of the lessons were good for me and will change the way I go about things in the future.

Here’s me with my God-daughter when I arrived in Boston.  Blessed.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Custody Agreement- What I Wish I Had Known Then

It took me a moment to decide how I wanted to write this, as I try to offer what I think people may both want to read and need information about…

I am in a pickle with my ex-husband.  Nothing new, but this Thursday will be the first time we’ve actually gone to court since our divorce.  In short, I have a very vague (shitty) custody agreement.  In my agreement, it says that each parent may take the children on vacation for a week with two months notice given to the other parent.  During the school year, it says that the other parent must agree.  That is pretty much it when it comes to vacation guidelines in my agreement.  It has no previsions to protect my children from their father who drinks excessively, especially on vacation.  It also has no previsions to protect my children from a parent who isn’t too serious about car seats and life jackets.  As a result, I am now going to court with him because I will not agree to this vacation during the school year or at all, for that matter. Not at such a young age, as it is also a 17 hour plane ride for a 4 day vacation for my small children.  There are also four children on this trip and only two adults.  This doesn’t make sense to any responsible, rational person I’ve spoken to.  I didn’t have children with a responsible, rational person.  I had children with a Narcissist.  This trip is not about my children, it is all about my ex-husband.  All of the information he has shared and all the communication we have had on the topic has been completely centered around him.  This is evident in his wording and his absolute refusal to meet with me to discuss the logistics of the trip. I have many safety concerns and in addition I do not trust someone to take my children around the world who will not even meet with me to discuss their well-being.  He is a true Narcissist.  Alas, we knew that, and a judge will decide on the trip.

That being said, had I known how imperative our custody agreement was – the wording of it – I wouldn’t be in this situation.  We made this agreement when I was not even thinking clearly three years ago.  It is so important because if there is ever a conflict between parents, a judge will look at the exact wording of the agreement and most likely determine the outcome that way. That makes sense to most – but it is almost impossible to predict all of the possible situations that may arise when two people get divorced and no longer are raising children “together.”

My next step is to request a modification in our custody agreement so this situation never happens again.  It is my job to protect my children and this is part of it.  There are many issues and specifics that need to be covered in a custody agreement.  Some of the topics that need to be covered are the process in determining schools for my children.  Right now they go to a private school that I pay for and that we are very happy with.  My ex hasn’t fought me on this decision, but he also has not made the decision with me and alleges that I made it alone.  I have documentation of my requesting he help make the decision, requesting he see schools, requesting he help research, and he just couldn’t be bothered.  If anything ever comes up regarding their school, I need to make sure this decision is solid.

Sports are another topic not mentioned in our agreement.  Our oldest is in sports now and my ex had him in a winter sport near him- keep in mind, he moved 35 minutes away from us last spring. Now our oldest is in a different sport at a league close to our home.  He alleges I didn’t “run this by him” which again, I have documentation that I did.  Narcissists live in their own lies.  Their truth is whatever works for them and comes out of their mouth.  If I showed him my documentation, he would simply say he didn’t remember saying it… I know this because I can predict his behavior based on his past behavior.  He is a Narcissist.

I never even pressed the issue of his moving away from us because I didn’t want to negatively affect the children.  Since he moved away and out of state, I could insist that he meet us for exchange.  Right now, I drop off at night, he drops off in the morning.  I think that is in the best interest of our children as they are dropped off at our homes, not in a parking lot somewhere.   I will always make decisions based on the best interest of my children.

As of now, I have some work to do and so does my attorney.  I will keep this post up to date in case I know anyone else who may have a similar issue.  I am very interested to learn other topics and suggestions that I may need to address while I seek this modification.

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Vacation in Arrears

I started this post a while ago, not because my ex was going on his second exotic vacation this year, (he is) but because I am disgusted with the child support system my family has had to deal with.

Then I came across this across this article:

Travel Ban for Parents Who Don’t Pay Child Support

Interesting article from Australia.  The problem with the article is that it only takes one’s Passport.  How about a driver’s license?  If he is over 45 days late.  This means NO payment has been made in 45 days… and this is only if the custodial parent has gone to court to have the case enforced.  This process can take over a year.

What am I even talking about?  I can only speak for the system in Maryland.  I actually don’t live in Maryland, but couldn’t have my case transferred to my state until it was enforced in Maryland.   The social worker’s manager told me they had no way to verify payments already made.   I tried for a year. Called weekly and even offered to go to the social workers office to log into my MD Human Resources account to verify payments.  I offered to send my bank statements.  After a year of calling and meeting and sending paperwork, I conceded my loss and applied for enforcement in Maryland.  I had been avoiding this task because I knew it meant having to drive two hours away to the county our case had been heard.

To clarify, I had a “collect and disperse” case.  When I was divorced, the one thing the state did in my favor was explain that it was my right to request my ex’s wages be garnished for support payments.  At that point, I had never received regular payments so that was the arrangement, they would be garnished from his checks.  When he decides not to work, because he’s in full-commission sales, my children do not receive support.  Arrears added up, and the only way to have that addressed is to have the case enforced.  Ok, problem solved.  Except that process also took a year.  I applied; the application was lost.  I called; she sent me a paper copy.  I verified my payment.  Finally.  After a few months, we had a date.  My ex husband and I sat down with the assistant DA and agreed on a number he owed the children.  This would be resolved by adding to his monthly payments until the arrears were paid off.  The payments would now be 15% more.

That’s it!  That is it.  Two years, balanced hasn’t changed.  The weekly payment is more, when I receive it.  Now, what happens when I receive $60 for the children over two weeks instead of $600 I need to help pay for childcare?  Nothing.  If he doesn’t work, I don’t receive support.  In the words of my attorney, “That’s the system.  I didn’t say it’s a good system.”

What happens when he spends $4,000 on vacation but owes his children $6,000?  Nothing.  Two separate cases. I could go on and on but my point is to expose a flawed system.

About Me (Mommy Mels)

Three Rotations Around the Sun

Ok so while I don’t write at work, I’m doing hall duty and it’s far too distracting to get anything worthwhile done.  Our kids are awesome- don’t get me wrong.  Our systems have narrowed it down to just a few that don’t follow policies but I’m blessed to have fans who stop and chat with me on their way to the bathroom while I’m out here.

This past Thanksgiving marked three years since my ex “Ninja Vanished” on us. I could not be at a better place. I am blessed to spend the majority of my time with my children and I feel like I have mastered the art of making the most of my time while they are with their dad.  I’ve realized that the best way to spend my time is in self-care.  Many times that means I’ll fill my night up with the gym, maybe some sushi take-out, and cleaning or organizing my house.  Maybe one night a week I’ll go out to dinner with work friends.  I also go to bed early and catch up on uninterrupted sleep.  It’s not always easy- especially because as I write this- tonight is a Monday and they are headed to dad’s tonight… I’ll miss them, and never a day goes by where my heart doesn’t ache without them.  But, alas, it is what it is.  I’m doing the best I can.

I can say, that as long as I am with my children, I am as happy as I could be.  I have short, short moments when a friend in a happy marriage gets to do something incredible with her husband and I think- How did I screw that up so badly?  But- they’re short.  I had some entertaining insight this weekend when my ex accidentally sent me a long list of screenshots taken of our conversations…including his call log…to show his girlfriend all of our correspondence.  Whoopsie on his end!  I had to call him out- my mom yelled at me for even responding- but it was an impulse thing.  I just said “wow” and “why doesn’t she realize I’m the LAST person on Earth she would need to worry about?” and “It’s sad, and why would she want to isolate herself from me?” That about covers my reaction.  And it was exactly that.  A reaction.

I had to reel myself in and remind myself that I am not dealing with sane people.  My ex-husband has a personality disorder and as my mom reminded me, his girlfriend takes her clothes off for money- clearly not a stable person.  She is very threatened by me- a concept I understand but nonetheless cannot wrap my head around.  Immediately after my reaction, it was turned to “my fault.”  “Because of things I’ve said in the past” she needs to know all that is said between us.  I can’t even remember what I could have said- but the point is, that is a typical response from a Narcissist.  It has nothing to do with me, but he must deflect his  shortcomings onto me.  That is how he functions.  In addition, I found out that he has me in his phone as “Lucifer” with the middle-finger emoji next to it.  Again, his shortcomings, not mine.  It is sad that I have to share my children with someone who has such blatant disrespect, but this is the cross I have to bear.  I wouldn’t trade my children for anything in the world and I have an incredible support system to remind me of all of my blessings when I’m faced with any abuse from their father.  It’s up to me to react to him.  Reacting to him is acknowledging the abuse.  I need to remember that next time.  Sorry mom, you were right.  As always.

As we go into the holidays, it’s amazing to reflect on where I’ve been and where I am now.  I have no pain in my heart like I have in previous years.  I have only joy when I’m with my children and family.  I do not feel like there is anything “missing” from our family, despite my being a single- parent.

On a side note- This past weekend my mom brought some wrapping paper to my house and it was exactly the roll from Walmart that I was going to get…until I saw a better deal with four rolls for the same price.  It took some searching, but I’ve realized that she and I are about the same person.  I can’t think of someone else I’d rather emulate.