Matthew Keenan


Moving day comes to the Keenan household, published in Star, November 6, 2012

by on Nov.22, 2012, under Uncategorized


Last month we joined many other parents in our demographic by moving to a smaller home. This was our fourth move in 25 years. It was different from the others, however. You see, there are moves in the early years, when your kids are toddlers and all your possessions can fit in a pickup. Where the furniture is particle board and weighs 30 pounds. It’s not really moving; it’s a fun adventure when people pitch in and everyone grabs something like a Big Wheel. Laughter and joy are plentiful.

Then your kids grow up, leave, and take with them a pair of jeans, a concert T-shirt and five phone chargers. What’s left behind is your problem. And that, let me tell you, is moving. Miserable, painful, never ending, torturous. I could elaborate further but it’s difficult to type while in traction.

Moving when your nest is near empty has four components. The storage unit comes first, but no one would ever consider bidding up this junk on A&E. Not even Barry who wears $400 shirts yet curiously spends days overpaying for trash. Next is the garage sale. This was a home run thanks to our neighbor Brandi Dickerson, previously chronicled in this space as the garage sale lady (GSL). She took charge. Employing fliers, yard signs, Craigslist, Star ads, dressing up the venue with framed artwork (for sale, of course) on the walls, playing Beethoven, and printing out decorative price tags, she elevated our garage to Barneys.

Memo to Clark Hunt — hire GSL stat. Day one is a bonanza of buyers with Benjamins exchanging hands. Day two things changed. The creepers arrive in conversion vans with intentions of trolling inside the house. People who make Honey Boo Boo look like a charter member of Hallbrook Country Club. “But the ads said this was an estate sale!” Sorry, bud.

Goodwill and Catholic Charities followed.

Which left moving day. Basements used to be fun hang outs for your high school kids. Now it’s the world’s largest compost bin, a smorgasbord of computer and game accessories, crutches, VHS tapes, guitar amps, baseball helmets, sleeping bags, Beanie Babies, American Girl dolls and a teddy bear whose button nose is missing thanks to Bernie. In basement storage room No. 2 we found a large box jammed with Natty Light cans and empty Vodka bottles presumably from that ‘no drinking’ party in 2008. We found enough nail clippers to give a manicure to Edward Scissorhands. More TV remotes than found at Best Buy. A Netflix DVD that went missing in 2009.

Moods quickly sour. Questions come to mind, like these: Who thought we needed 40 different couch pillows? Wicker baskets, sure, but 15? What’s up with multiple gift cards for businesses long since closed? Someone explain why we have enough protective cups to outfit the Royals? Why isn’t Apple’s stock price higher, given all the accessories we own? Is this stuff reproducing at night? Is Blockbuster still charging me a past due fee Shrek 2? Where is the Advil?

There were some keepsakes. We found a box of letters from my mother that forced an emotional pause. There was an envelope of savings bonds gifted for our first son that were 23 years in the waiting. (Depositing them at CapFed required 30 minutes as the youthful teller stared at them like she was holding a Rubrics Cube.) There were other things — paystubs, grade cards and Yearbooks from the time when polyester leisure suits were cool. My wife’s nametag from her days working at Macy’s as a 16-year-old was worthy of the safety deposit box. We rediscovered huge plastic tubs of grainy, sometimes out of focus photographs, reflective of a chaotic time when the parental zone defense fell apart. An accumulation of moments — road trips, baseball teams, birthdays, campouts, holidays.

Along the way you pause, sit on the carpet, reminisce and blink away tears.

When the time finally arrived and nothing remained, with the sun setting, Lori and I walked through the house and paused in each bedroom. We said goodbye to the home that was at the centerpiece of the best eight years of our lives.

Comments Off on Moving day comes to the Keenan household, published in Star, November 6, 2012 more...

Here is one male with life by the tail … KC Star, April 18

by on Apr.22, 2012, under Kansas City Star columns, Uncategorized

Apparently I’m different from most 53-year-old men. I have absolutely no worries about my testosterone level. Or that it’s dropping like a stone.

Call me strange, but in my mind, anything that contributes to men acting half their age can’t be good. Just ask former coach Bobby Petrino. Within a span of three days, he wrecked his motorcycle, lost his job, ruined his reputation, trashed his marriage, scraped his face, got a neck brace and had his text messages exposed to the world. The newspapers reported that he had texted his 25-year-old “lady friend” 84 times in a five-hour period.

But his testosterone levels? Ridiculous.

Wow. Sign me up.

Is my body ripped? No. Is my underwear? Absolutely. Do I have hair follicles appearing on my shoulder? So I’ve been told. Do I sometimes wake up on the couch alone with the TV blaring in the middle of the night? Maybe. Do I wear stretch pants to Wal-Mart to buy Fiber-con? Just once. Does my body itch at the dinner table? No comment. But do I love my wife/life/dog? Heck yes.

I’m sorry, but my abs don’t register on my give-a-darn list. I don’t walk around shirtless in the Plaza or hang out at Lifetime Fitness giggling with petite soccer moms. I’m happily married to the same women for 24 years and have zero interest driving a Corvette, sporting a bomber jacket, using Just for Men, applying hair gel that gives me a spiky look, or slamming down shots at Nick & Jakes or Sullivans. I’ve never tasted Red Bull.

Some product pitch-man called it ‘male menopause.’ Ladies — that guy is a fool. He’s either divorced or soon will be and living in a trailer home with a window unit because no man would dare make that comparison.

Men don’t need a fan blowing all night or sweat in the middle of January. Men don’t have a billion blogs for their midlife medical conditions or have a thousand Oprah episodes dedicated to it. Woman’s menopause is a living hell. Period. End of statement. What other brilliant pronouncements does this guy have up his sleeve? Labor is overrated?

Now back to me.

Guys who apply hormonal creams or gulp natural remedies do other weird things. They talk ‘cool’ and say things like ‘dude’, wear hip bracelets, Affliction T-shirts and imported sandals that expose bad toes. They wind surf, ride mountain bikes, go to Poison concerts, read Men’s Health and stare at ‘how to’ columns like “Stay fit, young and vital,” “Have frequent sex and run in marathons.” Really?

One ad I hear on the radio is called ‘Ageless male.’ It promises to “be the man you used to be.” “You used to be energetic… happy… and wow, did the ladies love you.” Pitch man — I have a news flash. The man I used to be had four kids under 6, changed a billion diapers, got three hours of sleep and worked 18 hours a day. I’ve seen those pictures. Invariably I was carrying one, maybe two kids, was wearing sweats and Chuck Taylors. Now? Well, the wardrobe hasn’t changed much but my life has. Empty bedrooms and more time with Lori, Bernie and my golf clubs.

Fear of aging? Bring it.

Matt Keenan’s book, “Call Me Dad, Not Dude. The Sequel,” is available at To reach him, send email to

Comments Off on Here is one male with life by the tail … KC Star, April 18 more...

Pinterest: How the other half thinks …. published KC Star on March 6

by on Mar.12, 2012, under Uncategorized

The matchmaking business has introduced us to the notion of 29 dimensions of compatibility. It’s hardly a novel concept that men need to get in tune with their sensitive side. Years ago, they claimed that men are from Mars, women are from Venus and finding a suitable partner required a space module. Still, most men don’t have time to fill out a 40-page questionnaire to find out why they live alone in a van down by the river.

So, guys, I have great news. For the next 500 words I will offer a pathway to understanding how the other half Yes, it’s a website, but it’s more than that. It’s a way of thinking, a way of spending, maybe wasting, time, but seeing the world in a different light. It’s a place where women create online bulletin boards for categories like home décor, food, shoes and more shoes. It’s paradise for women and it’s red-hot, driving more traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and Youtube combined. And over 97 percent of Pinterest’s Facebook fans are women.

Pinterest is like Craigslist for expensive stuff that you don’t buy, just stare at, declare you like or even “re-pin.” It’s got crafts; example: Want to see a braid in the shape of a Irish charm? Bingo. Want ice cream coke cupcakes? Done. Want to see wedding dresses that not even Kate Middleton could afford? Done. Chock full of recipes, knitting, crocheting, canning, flowers, and lots of photos of dogs and cats doing “cute” things. One day I saw a photo displaying “great glutes in 20 minutes” next to a recipe for ham and cheese sliders.

It’s got DIY ideas, like to how to rub chrome faucets with wax paper to keep water spots and fingerprints from sticking to the metal. Who knew?

Need an inspirational quote about friends, forgiveness, love or hugs? Pinterest. Looking for tips on your upcoming fantasy baseball draft? Sorry.

This is food for the right brain. Guys, still confused? Here is what’s NOT on Pinterest.

  1. Hunting/fishing gear. If you are looking for something to match that coonskin cap and Realtree hunting jumpsuit you bought for turkey season? Forget it. Plan on staying in your double-wide.
  2. Tickets to NASCAR? No tickets to anything anywhere, unless you are looking for a fashion show with top-of-the-line decorators.
  3. Cars. No way. Unless it’s something with a shirtless David Beckham type or that guy from The King’s Speech theAARP crowd loves.
  4. Hot tubs. XXL NBA Jerseys with your name on the back. BBQ smokers, tramp stamps, selfies? Uh, no. Looking for self-promoting brag-boards with group photo shots? Wrong.

And whatever you do, don’t criticize Pinterest. My wife heard I was working on this piece and she freaked: “Don’t trash it. You’d have a revolt on your hands.” My next-door neighbor spends “time” on the site. I would say she is obsessed, but that would underestimate her devotion. “Pinterest has become my life,” said Brandi. “This is not entirely bad, as it has replaced my need to obsessively shop on eBay.”

So guys, here is the four-step program. 1. Apply to be admitted. (Yes, you need to be asked). 2. Create a “board.” 3. Find something that’s stylish — and pin it. My suggestion — pricey homes with obscene landscaping. 4. Re-pin something another woman has posted. Then sit back, wait and push likes.

Your right-sided neurons are now firing for the first time since you crafted that finger painting in kindergarten class. Remember? The artwork that your then-cute and now-cuter classmate Katie adored?


She’s out there. Pinning and re-pinning.


Comments Off on Pinterest: How the other half thinks …. published KC Star on March 6 more...

Bernie the dog turns 10 and a crisis erupts in the Keenan home (published KC Star, Jan 31)

by on Feb.18, 2012, under Uncategorized


I read once where the ideal age for a boy to own a dog is between 45 and 50. I’m just outside that window a bit, turning 53 this week. Still, whoever offered that insight clearly understood how quickly a house turns quiet when the children become young adults. College soon follows and bedrooms become ghost towns. Yet one family member wouldn’t dare consider leaving home for a girls gone wild party at Alpha Tappa Kegga: Bernie.

Bernie Keenan, a Wheaten, has a distinct aversion to barking, shedding and chewing up furniture. She enjoys favored-nation status in the family, and second place isn’t close. She has all the virtues and none of the vices of other family members. That Bernie found a home here was a long shot in the first place. Bernie was the biggest of the litter and the last one left.

“Most families don’t want a big dog,” the lady said. Size didn’t matter to us … personality did, and she had buckets of it. I like to think her story is a cross between “The Blind Side” and “Marley and Me” without the sad ending.

And so the words my wife declared two weeks ago shook up my entire day: “Oh my gosh, its Bernie’s birthday next week. And she’s 10!”

Staring at the calendar, she was pointing to Jan. 17. I put the remote on the couch and my brain started to spin, like a clogged hard drive sucking for RAM space, but finding little room among the files stored over the years.

“Bernie is 10?” In seconds I was considering a nightmarish timeline, from constant vet visits, incontinence, arthritis, to witnessing the one family member with endless energy slowing to a stop. My BFF, running buddy, greeter in chief. The one family member who barks at the UPS and Fed Ex man delivering something we don’t need. It was unthinkable.

“Ten means what? I mean what’s that in human years?” My world was in free fall.

“Relax. Bernie’s not going to die soon. She will probably outlive all of us. You might want to lay off the table scraps though. Probably not good for her heart.”

Instantly, I had to find her, to check in, thinking for a nanosecond she might be looking out the front window, poised in a wheelchair, sucking on a straw, with a Life Alert around her neck.

The panic was mine alone. Bernie was lying at the bottom of the stairs, feet up in the air, waiting for a belly massage — the kind that extends up one side and down the other, followed by two pats to her chest. I delivered, of course.

And then my thoughts returned to Lori’s declaration. Dogs don’t have the conventional signs of aging … she’s not going bald, deaf or forgetting where she leaves her valuables — bones, gloves or stocking caps, stuff like that. Neither does she get AARP fliers or ads for free hearing tests.

Bernie’s been impervious to aging. Indeed, immune to all things terrestrial. So I went online and plugged in the information to find out her age in human terms. The computer program spit out the answer in no uncertain terms: Bernie’s age: 53. Lori laughed. “Maybe you can get a two-for-one at John Knox Village.”


Comments Off on Bernie the dog turns 10 and a crisis erupts in the Keenan home (published KC Star, Jan 31) more...

Countdown to the most important date on the calendar: Start of Christmas break, published Dec 9 in KC Star

by on Dec.18, 2011, under Uncategorized

The holidays are about Advent/Hanukkah calendars and the countdown to Christmas Eve. For parents with college students, here is a more relevant number: Nine. That’s how many days are left until college boys return from the last day of finals. And for those who don’t know this drill, prepare to be enlightened.

There are five phases of the Christmas break.

Phase one. Welcome home! For the next hour, the Prodigal sons get a free pass. Countless transgressions — lost phone, wallet, car keys, fender benders, parking tickets, bounced checks — all shoved under the carpet. In return for this safe harbor, they talk freely about the semester and disclose anecdotes having nothing to do with their basket-weaving class. Information flows freely, assisted by a carb load in the form of muffins, cookies and brownies. Eventually mom’s focus turns to grades, bills, credit card charges, and those inappropriate photos someone mentioned to her on Facebook. Overheard in our house: “Tell me about the semester. Let’s start with Day One.”

Phase two: The big dig . Moms become archeologists. Dude’s clothes pile landed just inside the front door and includes much more than just clothes, if you know what I mean. Moms dive in and deconstruct the socks, party favors, receipts, 5-hour Energy bottles. Indiana Jones couldn’t solve some of these mysteries. MIA? Combs, razors, toothpaste. The Tide goes empty, the bleach runs dry. Manmouth Duo? Sandbar party? Owloween? That’s interesting … lipstick? Untouched by human hands — what mom left them four months earlier — trash bags, flashlight, first aid kit, sun screen, stamps.

Phase three: “Where are you going? You just got home!” They have mini reunions in neighborhood basements, Charlie Hoopers, P&L, party buses. This is networking the old-fashioned way – fist bumps, bromance hugs, chest bumps. The information stream just dried up and that river won’t flow until they need money for Spring Break. Phones suddenly have low batteries or have poor service when mom sends late-night texts. Change jars go empty. Cars with the full gas tank disappear. Rejoinder: “Later mom … I’m on vacation!”

Phase four: Dude’s a possum . Their nocturnal habits raise the tension. Lights left on, garage doors open all night, shoes tracking mud, curfews busted. Memo to Dude: This isn’t a hotel and there’s no mini-bar. Toilets clog, hot-water heaters blow and broadband is stretched to its limits. Entire countries invaded and defended. On Xbox. Promises to find a job, clean the car, wake up before noon – broken. Lucky Charms inhaled. The 5-hour Energy has left the building. Rip Van Winkle took its place.

Phase five: The honeymoon is over. It’s Dec. 26. You have 22 more days left until school begins again on Jan. 17. Time for tough love and then ask some important questions:

Who are those boys in the basement? They are boys, right?

Where’s my Christmas gift?

What’s growing on your face?

With any luck, slacker dude will utter these words: “I need to return to campus early. Like tomorrow.”

Parents … what’s your experience? Send me your story ( I’ll write a post-holiday piece.

Matt Keenan’s book, “Call Me Dad, Not Dude,” is available at Write to him at

Comments Off on Countdown to the most important date on the calendar: Start of Christmas break, published Dec 9 in KC Star more...

Re-thinking a new normal: why having more kids will make your life better

by on Nov.24, 2011, under Kansas City Star columns, Uncategorized

The world just eclipsed 7 billion people and the news was greeted with outcry. So is this a great time for a column advocating the wisdom of large families? Probably not. 

Yet, I ran across this book, “Selfish reasons to have more kids: why being a great parent is less work and more fun than you think,” and it inspired me. Written by Bryan Caplan — an economist, of all things — it’s an interesting read that challenges conventional parenting notions across the board, demonstrating with data that having more kids improves the parents’ lives without compromising the children’s.

Large families are the stuff of dysfunctional reality TV, from Kate Plus 8 to Octo-mom and other pop culture train wrecks — even Michelle and Jim Bob, an appealing set of parental role models, no question, but 21 kids? Really? Why can’t the cable channels feature a family that is “normal” by cable standards, of say 10 children, whose names don’t all start with J? Like a contemporary equivalent of my dad’s family — 12 siblings, all raised as successful, happy adults with great spouses, strong marriages and an unbelievable work ethic. They flourished in the face of incredible hardship, fought in world wars and raised crops through the Dust Bowl.

These days many parents stand down with 1.5 kids, a goldendoodle and two cats. Caplan notes that in 1976, 20 percent of women in their 40s had five or more kids. By 2006 that number dropped to 4 percent. Some European countries have so little population growth that it is crashing conventional economic models. A New York Times Magazine article back in 2008 described the Europe’s low-birthrate phenomenon as a “baby bust.” The lowest fertility rates in Europe? Greece, Spain and Italy — which are all dominating the news for other, not entirely unrelated, reasons.

Caplan’s work has moved to the top of my parental must read list. Borrowing from research about twins and adopted children, he turns many parental assumptions on their head. The Times dubbed him the “un-Tiger mom” because he argues that hyper-parenting does little good — from grades to sports.

Guess what? Kids are going to pass, fail or make the basketball team no matter how much you fret, practice or endure drive by drop-offs. Your kid’s getting splinters from riding the pine in football? Let me guess: Dad is blaming Johnny for skipping those personal training sessions at Lifetime.

Pops, get a clue. Your high school letter jacket boasts of choir and debate.

Admittedly, no one will start a house addition once they finish the book. Still, it invites a welcome dialogue on what our culture embraces as “truth.” There are many other examples illustrated in this book that didn’t surprise me but might shock others. As parents we push too much on our kids. They hate piano? Maybe they should quit. They want to play Xbox? Chill. He’s not becoming an ax murderer.

And while you’re at it, Mom, consider recalibrating your thinking on Johnny’s soccer team that plays tournaments in Toledo, Tulsa and Tupelo. After all, he’s 9 but his knees say he’s 20.

My mom, who passed away in 2002, was disinclined to give me advice. When she would visit us, she was too busy pulling the kids away from the light socket and moving the hair dryer away from the full bathtub. Yet, occasionally she would share her opinion about chasing four kids under the age of 6. There was one suggestion she mentioned more than once: “Good parents like you and Lori should have more children.”

Today, with two in college a third out, and just one at home, there is no doubt. As in most things, Mom was right.

Comments Off on Re-thinking a new normal: why having more kids will make your life better more...

Aging is a state of mind …. unless its after 10 p.m., published in KC Star, Nov 5, 2011

by on Nov.05, 2011, under Kansas City Star columns, Uncategorized

At age 52, from time to time a thought enters my head — “I’m old.”

Sometimes it pops up in the form of a question; other times, a declarative pronouncement. With our oldest at age 22 and our youngest at 16, I’m a tweener — too young for a son or daughter’s wedding, too old to deny I need meds promising urgent relief.

So I debate the proposition without reaching a definite answer.

And while I kick that question back and forth, evidence continues to accumulate. We had our first college graduation this spring, and yes, the son’s diploma hit me; but it was also seeing my dad fatigue walking across campus from one event to another. He’s 81 but for someone who still works 6 days a week? His age has never been relevant.

Other moments struck me. When I attempted to complete my first running event, the Amy Thompson 8k in Loose Park, the question was conjoined with more salty words, finished with an exclamation point. Along the route, half the free world passed me by. Days later I learned the running times of many of those who ran by me. Seven men in their 70s smoked my time, including an 80-year-old who beat me by nine minutes. Old? Hardly.

Back to School night at the middle school with kid #4 is another moment of age reflection. You half expect some twenty-something mom to whisper my way, “Uh, grandparent’s day is in the spring.”

But nothing begs this question like what happened last weekend at KU during the fraternity’s annual “Dad’s Weekend.” For some, Dad’s Weekend is like a Hot Tub Time Machine — a time to hide the AARP card, lose the gray roots and party like its 1999, trading Jell-O shots with Buffy and Muffy in the Boom Boom room, then posting it all on Facebook while the liver gasps for air.

So there I was — Saturday night at the Wagon Wheel with my 21-year-old junior. A friend of the family was having a birthday party there and purchased a “birthday keg.” With a hotel room at the Oread, I thought,“Why not?”

You know those ads that play during pro football games when the geezer inconveniences everyone while he has to go? His name is Keenan. Doubtful the Wheel has changed much since I was there 30 years ago; this much I’m sure about — the men’s room hasn’t. And, in case you’ve never been there, phone booths come larger. Let’s say I had time to study the ceiling, walls, tile floor. What did I see? A kaleidoscope of names, accomplishments and bragging that bore no relationship to reality. College — those were the days.

Still, I was having fun, and seeing some familiar faces. The music was loud, which meant that, for once, I wasn’t the only one yelling “What?”

But about midnight, something happened. It was like someone attached a 20-pound weight to my eyelids. I needed a Five Hour Energy, an external defibrillator, No-Doz, leg cramps — something, well, urgently. Forget tap beer. My fantasy became a pillow, cotton sheets and a bathroom I could use without some dude with a bad aim at my elbow. So when my son was ready to move to other bars — places I call fake ID land — I waved the flag. What I yelled at him brought a nod. “I’m old.”

The next morning I was sharing at pew at St. Johns the Evangelist on Kentucky Street for the 10:30 service with two head-bobbing sons in tow. Afterward we had a world-class breakfast at Milton’s on Mass Street. The coffee and conversation flowed.

Growing old? Me? Not a chance.

1 Comment more...

OK, I’m not a cat lover …. coping with Sunshine the cat, published October 14

by on Oct.15, 2011, under Kansas City Star columns, Uncategorized

Our family has a cat. She’s been living with us for 11 years but we don’t know each other. She’s more than anti-social. She’s anti-people, anti-dog, cat, life.

I say “she;” we assume it’s a female. If it’s a male he’s got some serious issues in addition to the ones unrelated to his sex. Once I asked the vet how to confirm gender. The technique required me doing things she doesn’t like — being touched.

Her name is Sunshine. Apparently Stormy was taken. You’d think she would be more appreciative, since she was a rescue cat, given to us by a friend of a friend. I’m still trying to figure out who declared, “This is a great idea.”

We don’t know her birthday or age. But that’s not the bad news — it’s that she shows zero signs of aging despite spending hours laying in the sunlight and roaming around all night outside, searching for her personality. At this pace she is going to challenge the world’s oldest cat, who is 39. Meanwhile, Bernie, our wheaten terrier, seems ready for a nursing home at age 11. What gives?

Our kids say Sunshine has never been the same since I had the vet declaw her. There was no choice once she scratched my wife’s most valued possession: Tory Burch shoes. She was lucky she didn’t end up pushing a broom at Wayside Waifs.

And did I mention she snores? Saws logs all day long next to my pillow.

Her demeanor can’t be typical for most cats. I saw the trailer for the movie “Puss in Boots” and laughed hysterically — but my mood changed quickly when Sunshine darted out off the bed, leaving a trail of fur.

Seven years ago, we thought Sunshine had finally found a better deal in some drainage ditch somewhere. We had moved from our house to a rental three blocks away. She came with us, and then disappeared for a week, then two. Corks were popping every evening. As I dared to conceal my glee, the kids asked lots of questions. This was back when they believed me.

“Where is Sunshine?” they asked with huge, expressive eyes.

“She’s fine! Chasing mice outside, of course.”

“But it’s winter and she might freeze to death!”

“What do you want for Christmas? Find something in this catalog.”

And then we had a message on our answering machine. The new owners of our old house were calling. “Do you have a tabby cat? There’s a cat at our door and we started to feed it. It’s living with us.”

Their subsequent calls would be met with instructions: “Don’t pick up. It’s a telemarketer!”

Eventually there was a reunion and for about three minutes Sunshine acted like she cared.

Still, if you see a cat at your door resembling our Sunshine, invite her in. Years will go by and you’ll never see her. You can even pick a new name. I’d suggest Pat.

Comments Off on OK, I’m not a cat lover …. coping with Sunshine the cat, published October 14 more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!