January 17, 2013


I resigned from my job today. I signed a piece of paper through tear-blurred eyes that said I no longer wanted to be the Executive Director at my Y.

It was a tough moment in a series of tough moments these past six months. So many thoughts swirled through my head while my hand scribbled the words, “Effective today…” I thought of my kids and my ex-wife and how they depended on me to be there for them. I thought of all the joy my job has brought me and how much I loved what I do. I thought of how much I loved building that Y and giving the community something special. But it is time to move on.

And as I say the things I need to say to myself to keep going, things like, “when one door closes, another opens” or “the best is yet to come,” I feel better but it just barely masks the feeling that I don’t know if I’ve ever felt in my lifetime… failure.

The kids cried tonight when I told them I was leaving the Y. They cried for the camp counselors they love and what the Y has meant to them over the years. I cried too. I told them that it’s okay to be sad but that things will be okay.

And they will be. Fortunately, I have some time to figure things out. The uncertainty that lies ahead is certainly scary and daunting but I look forward to new challenges and a new opportunity to be the leader I want to be. Sometimes, a fresh start is what’s needed.

And I will hold my head high and be the role model my kids need me to be. They need to see that in challenging times, good things happen. I am determined to show them that this is true.

But it does seem I’ll have to enroll them in camp in the spring. Good thing the Y gives financial assistance.

February 15, 2011

Daddy-Daughter Date

“I wanna paint my nails, wear lip gloss and put my hair up in a bun, like this, and then have the longer hair hang down. I’m also gonna wear my high heels.”

Swee’Pea describes to me her ideas of how she wants to look as we discuss our first “date.” I have signed us up for the YMCA’s Daddy-Daughter Dance – the day before Valentine’s Day. Swee’Pea is clearly excited. And while it was very clear that she’d wear the pink and black dress that her Grandma sent her for Christmas, it was equally clear that Swee’Pea had a plan on how to look pretty.

As for me? I’d be donning my dark suit, white shirt, red and gold tie. We’d go on our “date” while Mommy and TheMonk also went on a dinner “date.”

As we drove to the dance, I couldn’t help but think how this type of moment will be gone in the blink of an eye. Someday, too soon for my taste, Swee’Pea won’t want to go to a dance with her Daddy. And as I look at her in my rear-view mirror, sitting in her booster seat with her wet curls and framing her beautiful face, I can’t help but breathe a sigh of sadness that my baby girl is growing up too fast.

As we arrive at the dance, she holds my hand and we enter the decorated gymnasium and find a nail painting place and a professional photographer. We patiently wait in line for nails (Swee’Pea chooses bright pink with purple glitter) and then photographs. We chat about the pretty dresses as the music starts. At first, I can see the uncertainty in her eyes as she surveys the dance floor as it becomes crowded as a song from the movie Notting Hill plays. I’m not sure if she’ll want to dance but I gently suggest we go out to the dance floor.

To my amazement, Swee’Pea agrees and, before I know it, we are busting a move on the dance floor and I can see the joy in Swee’Pea’s face as she leads me on the dance floor, forcing me to spin her around and turn around in our spot. She is clearly having a good time. And so am I.

But before I know it, Swee’Pea announces she’s tired and I take that as our cue to leave. As we head home I am once again overcome with the emotion of raising a little girl and I hope that one day, when she goes to a dance, that she expects that boy to treat her as well as her Daddy.

As we arrive home, I lean down and give her a hug and kiss her cheek and thank her for a wonderful evening. She hugs me back and then turns on the TV. Olivia is on.

And, just like that, we’re back to normal.

Daddy & Swee'Pea


February 24, 2010

Hair today… gone next week?

Once upon a time, I had beautiful hair.  The lady who cut my hair in high school even told me so. In fact, when I wanted a buzz cut my senior year in high school, she refused to cut it.  I had to go to a barber to do it.  In retrospect, if I had known that my hair would start thinning out soon after, I might have kept the longer locks for as long as possible.

Now, I wear my hair cut pretty short.  But I still have hair.  I like my hair and I would like to keep it.  In fact, there’s only one reason for me to consider my head without hair – raising money to help the families we serve at YMCA where I work.   So…

Starting today, I want to raise $1,000 via this blog.   On my YMCA blog, there is a “donate” button on the top right corner.  Click on it and make a donation.  In the “Comments” section, leave a short comment referring to my baldness.  Any amount – no matter how big or small – makes a difference.  If we get $250 dollars in donations in the next week then I’ll shave my goatee.  If we get $1,000 in donations by next week then I’ll shave my head too.  I”ll then post a video of me shaving my head for you to laugh and ridicule me.  Well, even more than you already do.

Remember! It’s for the kids and families we serve.  Your donation helps us fulfill our vision of never turning anyone away due to an inability to pay.  You can read some of the past few stories on this blog to get a feel for the type of need we encounter on a regular basis.  Then, donate. To help a child – and to see me bald.

Deadline is Wednesday, March 3rd at 5:00 p.m. PST. Hurry up and make me bald!


March 9, 2009

Your own mini stimulus package

Okay. This is the last time I’m going to write about the auction. At least to beg you to bid on something. Next week will be the post where I thank all the awesome people who donated products or time in helping me promote this auction.

If you’re just joining from another planet, the short version is that two months ago I experienced something that rocked me to my very core. The timing wasn’t great as I was forced to take care of my family while I was supposed to be raising funds for my YMCA. It was during this time that I asked anyone I could think of to help me and was amazed at how many people responded.

The result is a pretty nice collection of items to bid on. If you or someone you know is about to be a first-time parent, there are some great books and music that hasn’t been bid on yet. If you have a blog that is in desperate need of a makeover, you can get a makeover for $200 $175. In fact, one of the designers who donated his services, designed this blog three short years ago.

Please go take a look around. There’s even a $100 American Express Gift Card that currently has a bid of $50 and some $50 Paradise Bakery gift cards too. It’s like you’re making money. Now go and check out the auction. Remember, it’s for the kids.


March 5, 2008

I need your help

As many of you know, I work for the YMCA. And rather recently I became the Executive Director of a YMCA that is a stone’s throw from the U.S.-Mexico border. What’s rather unique of this YMCA is that we don’t have a full facility. We operate our programs out of an office building. Because of this, most of our programs are off-site. We provide six different childcare programs – mostly for low-income families – at various elementary schools in our community. We provide youth sports programs that happen every Saturday at local parks and schools. We provide Teen Leadership programs for low-income kids who need guidance and support as they try and capture the American Dream of becoming anything they want to be. In essence, we improve the quality of life for hundreds, if not thousands, of kids and families each year.

One in four families that live within a three mile radius lives under the federal guidelines for poverty. And while there is only one YMCA in this community, there are nine documented gangs – many tied to the Tijuana drug cartels – competing for the same kids in a struggle of good versus evil. Even sadder, is that in a community that is 63% Hispanic, half of all hispanic teenagers will become pregnant in our community. We can do better in serving these kids and their families. That is why we are here.

My job is to make sure that we never turn anyone away due to an inability to pay. I wrote about the joys of making this happen in a post last month. Please take a moment to read that post to get a feel for how impactful we can be as a supportive community.

This month is our Strong Kids Campaign – a fundraising drive that lasts for about five weeks – that allows us to provide programming for anyone who wants it. Our goal is to raise $90,000. As I write this, with one week to go, we have raised a tad over $75,000. We are so close to meeting our goal and yet, as the prospects list grows smaller, we seem miles away at the same time. This is where I ask you to consider helping out.

I have made similar requests in the past and the response has been amazing. And while each YMCA I have worked at has had tremendous need, I can honestly say that this YMCA has been doing so much with so little that it is truly inspiring to show up for work every day. If you can give $25, $50, $100 or more, you can literally make the difference for a parent worried about having a safe, nurturing environment for her child while she works two jobs. Every penny goes straight into our programs and every cent is tax deductible for those of you who live in the U.S.

If you can, you can make a contribution on-line by going here and designating your funds to the Border View YMCA. Please put my name: “Matthew” in the comments section so I can make sure it goes to the right place.

Additionally, if you’d like to give a larger gift that can be spread out over 10 month (the current calendar year), email me at childsplayx2@gmail.com and I can give you information about how to do that.

Thank you in advance for your consideration in helping us achieve our mission.

January 23, 2008

I’ve seen the toughest around

The clock on my office desk reads 5:37 p.m.

I am cleaning up my desk and packing my laptop into my shoulder bag along with some papers I will need to do more work with that evening. It has been two weeks since I started my new job of running this Y and there is a lot to do. I am weary and tired from a long day of staring at budget numbers and my mind wanders to my family waiting for me at home. Outside my office door sits the front desk and I can hear that our receptionist is helping someone register for a program.

I glance out my door and I see a woman, about my age, filling out paperwork and I can see clearly from where I stand that one of the forms is a financial assistance form. I don’t see anyone with her however and so I continue to pack up. I don’t like clutter on my desk when I come in to work in the morning so I spend a few minutes putting things where they belong. When I am done, I put on my jacket as it is dark and chilly outside and I pick up my bag and head for my office door.

I once again see the woman in the lobby. She has just finished filling out her paperwork and is handing our receptionist a $10 bill. As the receptionist takes her payment I notice, for the first time, that the woman is not alone. Standing quietly beside her I see a little boy who looks to be about four. At this moment, the lady bends down and gives the boy a hug and says joyfully, “You’re going to play soccer like a big boy!” The little boy beams a smile so bright, I don’t notice the darkness as I walk through the lobby and out the front door.

I reflect on what I had just seen as I head to my car in the parking lot. I make a mental note that a season of soccer costs $50 and the woman paid $10. And then I remember that beautiful smile.

I can’t help but smile myself as I think of the hard work that goes into making programs available for everyone – no matter their financial situation – and I once again think of that little boy being hugged by his mother. Someday, in the future, he will think back on this soccer experience and won’t ever realize that his mother struggled to make ends meet – but still found a way to let him play soccer “like a big boy.”

I open the door to my car, slide into the front seat and I think of my own little ones waiting for me at home. My eyes briefly well up with unspilled tears as I know how much that mother loves her son – as much as I love mine – and I am struck by her courage to walk through our doors and ask for help. And I absolutely love that we can answer that call.

I wipe my eyes dry, start the ignition and back out of my space to begin the drive home. I no longer feel weary and I think about how much I love what I do.

The title of this post was from an 80′s song. Can you guess the song?

November 29, 2007

Daddy and his terrific, awesome, so good, very nice day

The “meeting” I had yesterday – the one that TheMonk turned into a mini adventure – was actually a job interview.

Today I was offered the position.

I will still be working for the organization that is also the name of a certain Village People song. I will still be working in a poverty-stricken community. I will still be making a difference where it matters most.

But the difference is now I will be in charge. For the past five years I have been running the operations of a branch – second in command, so to speak. I have truly enjoyed it and I have learned so much. Now, I will be in charge of everything.

I welcome the opportunity to put my own stamp on something. I welcome the opportunity to grow more professionally. I welcome the fact that I will get to continue doing what I love – making a difference.

February 21, 2007

Depending on the kindness of strangers…

Many of you know that I work for the Y*M*C*A. The Y that I happen to work in is an urban Y within a community that has a diversity that rivals the United Nations. Thirty-six languages are spoken in my service area and the median household income is $26,000 a year in a town where the average rent falls in the $1,200 a month range. Many of our members and participants are immigrant families trying their hardest for a better life. They brought their families to this country so their children could be educated and have more opportunities than they had as children. They are chasing the American Dream.

But the American Dream is expensive. Many of our parents work more than one job. Many cannnot speak enough english to help their children with their homework. Many cannot afford quality, reliable childcare. That’s where we come in. We provide childcare to over 1,000 kids a day at 8 different schools and sites. Most of these kids are subsidized through grants but our licensed childcare programs are fee-based. Ninety-percent of the kids that come through our doors are eligible for financial aid. And since it is our goal never to turn anyone away due to an inability to pay, we must raise funds to cover the costs of our subsidies.

Every year during this time we host our Annual Support Campaign. We ask our members, friends, family and neighbors to contribute to this much-needed cause. This year our goal is to raise $120,000. We are four weeks into our five week campaign and we are short of our goal right now by about $30,000. This is making me nervous and causing me to wake up at night wondering how we’re going to reach our goal.

And that’s why I’m writing this. Perhaps you can help. Many of you come to this blog and read about Swee’Pea and TheMonk and I am very grateful for your interest in what I write here. I would be equally grateful if you would consider making a pledge on behalf of Swee’Pea and TheMonk. You can do this two ways…

1) You can pledge your amount in the comments or by sending me an email at childsplayx2@gmail.com. By making a pledge only, you will have the leeway of spreading out your payments over the next 10 months. We will send you a confirmation of your pledge and you can let us know how you’d like to pay.

2) You can go to our corporate website and make a one-time payment via our donations page. Please designate your donation to my Y (email me at childsplayx2 [at] gmail [dot] com for the name of my Y). In the comment section, please put “Matthew” so I know that a payment was made.

All donations to the Y are tax deductible. Your donation goes to a great cause – one that I support every day of my life – and your contribution will help improve the life of a child. What could be more rewarding than that?

Oh, and if you have a blog and make a donation, I will link your blog on my front page to the right for the next month. If you donate over $100 I’ll do a post soley about your blog or I’ll write a poem for any occasion. Thank you for your support!

March 1, 2006

What’s the richest nation in the world…?

I went to college in New York City. In New York, the panhandlers have perfected their art in a way that no would could imagine without actually seeing it. Some would perform music, others magic tricks, and some would just look really, really down. Little did I know that in my future, I would have something in common with the panhandlers. I ask for money for a living.

There was one panhandler near campus that the students called “Shorty” (I’m guessing because he stood about 4’11″ – with afro. Hey, we weren’t the wittiest bunch, so Shorty was all we could come up with). Shorty would follow you for half a block telling jokes and then he’d end his request with one of the following taglines…

“What’s the richest nation in the world?” (pause) “DO-NATION”

or, my favorite…

“You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to help a Little Fella.”

What’s my point? Well, a month ago, I wrote a post about my Y*M*C*A and how we are raising money to help the low-income community that we serve. My Y is not a new, sparkling Y with BMW’s and Audi’s in the parking lot. It’s clean, well kept and a place for families to come get help with childcare, for seniors to come and find kinship with fellow seniors, and for kids to play sports or learn to swim. It’s not glitzy, but we serve thousands of people each year.

Our goal was to raise $116,000 in the past month. We’re currently $5,000 short of our goal. Some of my fellow bloggers have already been gracious enough to donate (see my blogroll of the month on the right). I am humbled by their generosity. If you are reading this today, I ask you to consider donating to this worthy cause. Your donation could help make the life of a single mom, a child with no father or a senior without a spouse to feel a bit better in the coming year.

To make a donation, click here and make sure you designate your gift to the “Y*M*C*A”.

Remember, you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to help a little fella.

Thank you. And please email me at Childsplayx2@gmail.com and let me know of your donation so I can thank you personally.

May 1, 2005

Fashion to the Stars

The fashion show was yesterday to benefit our Y. It was my job to meet with our celebrity guests and go over their duties prior to the show. The event was outdoors and the runway was about 4 feet off the ground. The guests will be treated to entertainment while they eat lunch. Umbrellas have been erected to protect guests from the sun but, unfortunately, the umbrellas block the view of the runway – they will have to be removed prior to the actual show. We have a full schedule before the show begins, however, and our celebrity guests will be assisting with our live auction. This will happen during lunch.

As I mentioned, it was my job to go over the last minute details with our guests. Brittany Hogan, Miss California 2005 (and Miss USA First Runner-up)is the first to arrive. She is dressed in a tasteful skirt/suit and is clutching a small bag that, no doubt, holds her crown. I introduce myself and as we begin to talk, it becomes apparent that she is really down to earth. We go over the script and then I show her the runway and where she’ll be seated.

As we head back inside, I am informed that Brody Hutzler has arrived so we go to meet him. I ask Brittany if she has met Brody before and she replies “He was one of the judges at the Miss USA pageant.” I laugh and say, “Well now you can ask him who he voted for!” As we approach Brody he is dressed in a striped shirt with a lightweight blazer/jacket. He is wearing stylish faded jeans with Chuck Taylor-type shoes. I make the introductions and start out by saying “Brittany wants to know if you voted for her, Brody.” He laughs and says that’s highly confidential information but he’d give Brittany all the details later, hinting that he found some of the other judges’ view interesting.

After going through the script with both of them we head back outside as I escort them to their seats. On the way, Brittany comments on how she likes Brody’s outfit. I sarcastically add, “Yeah, Brody, thanks for dressing up for us.” He looks at me, realizes I’m teasing him (this is a fashion show, after all) and replies defensively while laughing, “Hey, they told me they had an outfit for me but the pants didn’t fit.” “So, the high water look isn’t for you, huh” I said. “Noooo.” replies Brody.

“Well, don’t worry Brody,” I reply “The runway is eye level and the umbrellas will still be up when you talk so the only thing they’ll be able to see are your shoes.” We glance down at his Chuck Taylors and laugh.

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