Honey Done Did It List

Approaching my one year anniversary of being a new homeowner, in addition to being a new hubby and new father, I’d like to reflect on tasks and responsibilities that were and are on my “Honey Do” list.

And honey, how they do, differ from my former life as an apartment-dweller.

Before, in apartments, tasks and responsibilities mainly consisted of: taking out the trash, hanging pictures, and maybe lighting a burner that flamed out on the gas stove.

Now, as a homeowner, I’ll start with the year-round activities and then break it down according to each of the four seasons. In no particular order…


Loaded about 30 bags of salt into the water softener.
Fixed/scooped out gunk and food particles from the garbage disposal-nuts, paper, gross unidentifiable objects-a handful times of which the signal it needs be fixed is a gushing air gap from the kitchen sink, telling us it is backed up.
Cleaned out and vacuumed every vent and air return – about 20.
Prepared baby room–crib, closet racks, rocking chair.
Raked leaves – 10 times.
Pruned trees and bushes – 10-15.
Mowed every week. weed whacked every other.
Weeded all around the yard and flower beds.
Built, supported, painted the floor to ceiling mirror for workout room.
Stuck felt pads under the legs of every piece of furniture about 50.
Installed mirror on inside of wife’s one closet door and a jewelry rack on the other.
Cleaned out debris from gutters.
Change the HVAC air filters. I also taped all the seams of the HVAC for higher efficiency.
Trimmed down the flower beds-hydrangeas, peonies, tulips, lilies, and raspberry bushes.
Took down three walls full of tool mounts to prep home gym.
Co-installed universal weight set apparatus in gym.
Moved second fridge downstairs.
De-iced, dejammed, defrosted upstairs freezer – twice.
Trimmed out fireplace with wood.
Removed two doors and cut in cat doors with flaps–though we ended up removing the flaps because the cats couldn’t figure out the concept.
Speaking of cats, I’ve poop scooped the litter box every 362 of 365 days. Just sayin’.
Cleaned and replaced whole home humidifier screen on HVAC system…only to buy a new one a month later because the other was inefficient.
 photo 2
Pounded a scrap piece of wood to anchor a bike rack into the upper part of the garage.
Stapled string holiday lights all along the front of our home.
Shoveled the driveway and front sidewalk, maybe 20 times.
Removed wallpaper from kitchen and dine-in area. Scraped every little remnant piece anywhere on wall. Every. Little. Piece. On. Each. Wall.
Taped up, painted, and re-painted, primered formerly wallpapered wall.
Installed two children’s car seats.
Installed shelf wall mount.
Mounted coat rack in front hallway.
Removed, rewired, and remounted doorbell ring chimes compartment.
 burnett backyard
Weeded all around the yard.
Mowed every week. weed whacked every other.
Restrung /relocated garage door opener wall mount.
Fixed part of split rail fence.
Made garden area, mulch and papered it. 11′ x 11′ area.
Put chicken wire fence around garden and raspberry bushes.
Planted 16 tomato plants. We are possible opening a canning factory and/or pizza sauce company.
Hung Cash’s porch swing, anchored into the ceiling.
Hauled a dryer and washing machine up the stairs and another set down them.
Dug up and re-bricked patio.
Bought and Planted apple tree.
Bought and Planted Fringetree.
Hung a stained glass art piece.
Hand-wiped and scrubbed porch to prep for makeover with new outdoor carpet installed.
Mounted 3 hanging flower baskets.
Planted and prepped plant row along side of house.
Spread weed and feed throughout the front and back lawn.
Trimmed bushes and hedges.
Dug up and Removed yew bush and another bush alongside house.
As a bonus, with Kid Ownership – much assembly required!
(I’m holding the Allen character liable for my carpal tunnel for that irregular L shaped wrench!)
Two Pack n Plays(upstairs and downstairs) one with basinet and mp3
Two strollers – one jogging, one walking
Jumper with a ton of spin-y things, noisemakers and squeaky toys.
Activity gym – Cash pulls on tab and a circle of four songs plays that I will never, ever, get out of my head.
Baby swing
Rocking chair
Porch dining table
Four wicker chairs
Front porch bench
The honey do list is long and often time-consuming and frustrating to accomplish the tasks. But the busy bee efforts have never been more worth it…because I’ve never had so many worthwhile investments in my life.
Just like in honey is the nectar of the flower, in the honey do list is the nectar of my new life.

Glory be to the Grandfather

My paternal grandfather, Bernard Kennedy, raised things. Crops. Votes. Kids.

Dairy farmer, Town Chairman, Father of eleven.

Bernard worked and then took over the reins of the farm where he was raised and reigned over his 250+ acre dirt empire with admirable attention and affection. The farm buildings were straight and clean, the yard well kept, and animals well-fed.


Despite back-bending, hard labor work his entire life, he carried himself with a regal dignity. Shoulders back, chest out, and eyes smiling.


Bernard respected himself, his wife, Louise, his family, his church, his community, his work, and anyone he met.

He was comfortable and familiar with a tough day’s work. As if the upkeep and production of his dairy farm and large family wasn’t enough to cripple a healthy man, Bernard held two jobs outside of farming, parts at Carl F. Statz machinery, and odd jobs handyman to locals in the area. Later in life, he was a top repairman for his son David’s TV and appliance store, Kennedy-Hahn. Somehow he found the time to play on Waunakee’s Home Talent baseball team for many years and was very proud of the several championships he was a part of.

Bernard’s hands were gnarled like the roots of a tree as a result of handling the metals, machinery and tools of his trades. Getting a close look at his hands resting on the table one day, I asked him what was wrong with them. He shrugged his shoulders, “Oh. It happens when you get old.” No complaining, no flaunting, just straight forward, matter-of-fact responses.

Undaunted by his overloaded obligations, Bernard maintained a positive outlook on life. He often whistled and sang in his Irish tenor while he worked. The same on tune performances he would give in church on Sunday. An Irish Catholic who faithfully attended service every Sunday, sitting towards the front, in the characteristic persistence of his work and family life.

On his old, sore knees, he’d still humbly kneel down before the God he believed in.

Grandma and he said the rosary every night and on road trips.  As a young teen, I road along with them once to Cincinnati to see a play their son and my uncle Paul was performing in.  In the front seat, my grandparents would trade off between Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory be to the Fathers. I would mumble along at times but mainly, just wishing for the decades of the rosary to be finished and for the radio to be turned on.  Though I admit to a sense of security I felt knowing that if we did get in an accident, God couldn’t help but put us on the express lane to Heaven.

Grandpa was 100 percent Irish and advertised it often. Always celebrating on St. Patrick’s Day by wearing his wool Irish cap.  Green was his favorite color. He painted his home accordingly and I’m hard-pressed to remember him in any clothing other than his green work uniform. The only fight I ever heard him getting in, outside of the sparing he did with his brothers, was when some loudmouth at the shop made a derogatory comment about the Irish, on St. Patrick’s Day to boot. Bernard had to put the man in his place–which happened to be pressed hard against a machine.

Should any of his seven sons scrap in his presence, he would intervene, “If you have that much extra energy, I have plenty of chores for you.” A peace accord soon followed.

Tough but fair, elected as the town chairman of Westport for over 27 years, Bernard Kennedy served his elected office with the same pride he took in his land and in his family.

When a resident called to complain at 11PM, he took the call and listened while my grandmother shook her head and wondered why someone would call the house so late. When his good friend on the board spoke out of turn, Grandpa stepped in to tell him to wait his turn and let the others be heard. When a substantial snowfall would blanket the area, Bernard instructed the truck drivers to plow his street last, after the rest of the community was taken care of, sometimes, he’d even helm the plows to help get the job done.  A shining example of what a “public servant” should be. I wish every politician would follow his example. In fact, the worst insult he would say about a cohort was with a disappointed head shake, “He’s…he’s a politician.”

The town’s administration building was erected some years ago and named after him. Deservedly so.

Often in my youth upon telling a local my name, the common response would be something like, “Kennedy? Related to Bernard?” Yes, he’s my grandpa. “Oh, known him for years. Your grandpa’s a good man. Salt o’ the Earth.”

With 22 aunts and uncles, thirty six other grandchildren, I found it impossible to get one on one time with my grandpa.  On a recent search, I couldn’t find any pictures of just he and I. Probably true for most of us grandchildren…and his children, for that matter. But, nevertheless, his influence was far and wide.  He and I share the physical tic of twisting our wrist to crack our arms, my sister likes to point out. Also, I swear Cash when he looks up at me with a certain look, he reminds me of my grandpa looking over his glasses with a scrunched brow. Their similar blue eyes, glimmering with curiosity.

Bernard Kennedy showed this same sort of servitude, loyalty, and respect as a husband to his beloved wife, Louise, of over 54 years.


Grandma used to say the only way she knew Grandpa didn’t like one of the meals she’d prepared is that he wouldn’t ask for seconds. She also joked the reason they had so many kids was because Grandpa mumbled. He’d crawl into bed and say, “You wanna go to sleep or what?” She’d reply, “What?”

And grandpa took that to mean, well…eleven kids.

Bernard lost his other half in March of 2000. Louise was 77 and died of liver cancer.


In her absence, he slid to life’s background.

He was still kind and cordial, but there was something missing in his eyes, in his voice, in his mind, in his heart. He was there but he just wasn’t.

His good health and sturdy genes forced him to stay in a world that no longer felt like it was his anymore. For eight years, he patiently waited to join Louise before finally joining her in 2008 at age 88.

Grandpa once said, “Young people may die, old people must.”

The “good man” was laid to rest in the cemetery behind the church he attended his whole life, next to his long-time wife, the other half.  Bernard never got over Louise.

Good thing, now he lays beside her.


Bernard Kennedy-the salt of the earth-returned to it, hay in the barn…and the harvest of his family still growing strong…thanks to the man who raised things.


Christmas 2014 – Bernard and Louise’s children, most grandchildren, most great-grandchildren…

Fill in the blanks

Since this site is named Wisconsin Dadger, it’s about time I start writing about Dads. This week and next, I will go back a bit and profile my grandDADs, both of whom have passed on. This week will be my mother’s Dad, William Cork.


In Spring Green, Wisconsin, in 1920, William Cork became the sixth child born to Antonia (Kratcha) and Walter Cork.

Only six months after William’s birth, his father, Walter, fell to his death while at work on a construction site. It was Walter’s 40th birthday.

As my son, Cash, turns six months today, I can’t help but be horrified that if something ever happened to me at his current age, he would have no memory of me, of his dad, who is trying so hard to establish a fertile world for him to grow into.

Walter didn’t get to watch his son William grow up tall into a boy, a teen, a town athletic star and a man and a father himself.

William’s best sport was basketball.  At 6 feet 2 inches, William was considered a “Big Man” in the late ’30s.  He was recruited by several colleges and eventually decided to stay relatively close to home by attending UW-Lacrosse so the family could watch him play his Freshman year. Then, History set in.

The United States became involved in world war 2 and William joined hundreds of thousands of other young men, putting off personal interests for his country’s.

Young Wm Cork

William began a military career that became his entire work life as an airplane mechanic for the Air National Guard. He went deaf in one ear from year’s of plane noise but never complained about contributing his skills for the betterment of the fighting forces. He went up the ranks as highly respected Lt. Colonel.


William married Charlotte Manning and they raised two sons and three daughters together. A military man of his era, he was a strong, silent father. An intimidating presence at his size, 6 ft 2 in tall and well over 200 pounds, not many of his children or anyone, crossed him. He was legendary for getting great deals on anything he bargained for-cars, houses, clothing. Slick salesmen dropped their act and their eyes around him.

His hard exterior had a soft spot for his kids and Charlotte.


Upon retirement in his early 50s, he tapped into his Bohemian roots and Charlotte and he hit the road each year as the Wisconsin temperatures dipped below 40 degrees. They bought a small place in a Tucson, Arizona housing development and meandered across the Western interstates and highways to get there.

William and Charlotte had the playful bickering worthy of a television show. He had his worn upholstered chair and grandma her own faded blue lounger. Never did the other sit in the other’s chair nor did any guest. Grandma would sit back puffing her cigarette and recall an instance from their past or the name of an old neighbor’s daughter. Grandpa would question her memory by announcing to the room, “Sounds like someone’s telling stories.” She would reply, “Quiet! It’s true.” He would respond with a smirk, “Is that how it goes?” Grandma would grunt, “Dad! Anyway, as I was saying…”


William continued his athletic pursuits throughout his life, a scratch golfer, a high-average bowler, and shooting buckets with me in the driveway, he still could swish a jump hook from ten feet out at the flick of a wrist and hop of the leg.

Off the athletic arena, he also surprised those around him. He was an early adaptor of the internet in his 70s, checking his stocks daily, and even sending emails to family members.

I eagerly awaited their return to Wisconsin each mid-Spring and what lumbering new Recreational Vehicle would turn into our driveway. Seemed they would upgrade to a new RV every few years, each one more “decked” out than the previous. They put the miles on. I remember running my little fingers along a plastic map of the United States mounted on their RV.  They colored in the states they’d been to on it. By the age of 12, I’d only been to a handful of states outside of Wisconsin, all thanks to a visit to see them in Arizona. I was easily impressed.

After a number of years, the map had only a few blank states remaining.

But, in 1992, the blank states would stay unfilled, as Charlotte was diagnosed with lung cancer, liver cancer that eventually crept to her brain. and died at the age of 67. William lost his travelmate.

Outside of his children, who tended to him, William became lonely and found a spark in his life with an old high school friend, Helen. They married and enjoyed each other’s company for seven years before William acquired a blood clot in his foot which caused the toe to die, and so had to be amputated.

After the surgery, he got an MRSA-a staph infection that got misdiagnosed which led to his rapid deterioration of health.  He died a little more than a year later.

William was a stoic, proud man and that’s why I treasure a rare glimpse into his softer side, a memory made a few months before his death at the age of 81.

Grandpa was lying in his bed and needed his crutches to get up and go to the bathroom.  Helen and my mom were out grocery shopping, so he called out for me.

Grandpa was a good size guy so I really had to heave him to get him to sit up at the bed’s edge.  I noticed the bandage on what was left of his foot was unspooling.

I reached down to tighten it and saw the purplish bruising around the amputation. It looked like half his foot, not just a big toe, was gone.  I pretended not to act a bit shocked at the sight, but I guess he knew I saw it.  I quickly secured it and pulled him up to his crutches. As we found ourselves in an accidental hug, he said in a steady, soft, sincere voice, “Thanks, Chris.”

A moment of vulnerability from a man who never showed much, struck me deeply. In that one moment, though he was never demonstrative with his gratitude and love for others, I felt both from him.

At his cold, February funeral, three old men, veterans as well, stood at attention, dressed in their military uniforms that fit them better in their younger bodies, were standing in shin-deep snow wearing inadequate dress shoes, as the brisk winds redded up their faces to honor my grandfather. Before the blasts of the 21 gun salute, one the men read a soldiers eulogy…something about being a brother through eternity.

Even more than a brother, William Cork is a father, grandfather and now, great-grandfather through eternity.

Considering he didn’t get to know his father, that is quite a legacy, I’m lucky to be a part of.

Life gave you some blank slates and blank states and you did your best to fill them with color.


Well, what do you expect?

Expectations are a tricky lot. Set them too low and you’re likely to underperform in life. Set them too high and you risk eternal dissatisfaction no matter how much you achieve. How do you get them right where you need them?  A question that I’ll need to answer in regards to my son…that every parent has to answer.

Got to thinking about this because of a volleyball. Not a famous ball like Wilson from the Tom Hanks’ movie, Castaway.


Just a regular, slightly-worn, bar league volleyball.

One might argue a volleyball doesn’t discriminate and is beautiful in that way.  The volleyball doesn’t care if you’re male or female, black or white, gay or straight, Bruce or Caitlyn Jenner, because if you hit it correctly with good form and good power, it will go pretty much right where you want it to.

So, that same ‘one’ might argue that the volleyball didn’t intend any trouble to me personally in the two games I’ve played this year with our coed, company sand volleyball team, where the ball has been inconsistently scattering around the court after my hits. But it sure feels personal.

When I throw a baseball or football or shoot a basketball, the ball more often than not, goes pretty much right where I want it to.  I’m confident of my command of those sports balls, so it’s really disheartening to have this particular ball give me trouble. Well, enough of this…the ball stops here.

So, last night after our game, with a squeezed grip on the volleyball, in forceful but hushed tones, I began to ream it’s seams out.

Our conversation as follows…

ME: What was that all about?!

Ball: (No response)

ME: You’re making me look a fool out there! I’m an elite athlete who played college football, a top finisher in various 5K and 10K road races throughout the years and can still nail a turnaround jump shot from 15ft out.

Ball: Congrats, Bro. What’s that have to do with volleyball?

ME: What’s that have to do with…?! I’m an athlete, I pride myself on that…so this mediocre play in volleyball is hard for me to handle. Kinda messes with my identity if I can’t succeed in a sport. Get it?

Ball: (No response)

ME: I mean, I started to play volleyball after graduating from college and moving to Chicago. I played two years in the Co-ed beach Social League-and I’ll have you know my team won the championship my second year!

Ball: Congrats again, Bro. What year was that?

ME: Nineteen ninety ffffffff…oh, I see. You trying to say that was a long time ago?! I still got it, pal. Don’t get ballsy with me!

Ball: Chill out, Dude. Just asking what year.

ME: Just asking, my butt. You’re trying to insinuate that just because I haven’t played in twenty years that I shouldn’t expect to pick up where I left off?! To serve, bump, set and spike with powerful ease? Especially without practicing?!

Ball: You said it, Man.

ME: Well, that’s just…that’s just…really…really…some..what…reasonable. I guess.  I practiced a lot more at those other sports I mentioned. I’m just not meeting my own expectations. And that hurts-deeply. Like lose sleep, bothersome, can’t get that song you can’t get out of my head annoying, such as Baha Men’s song “Who Let the Dogs Out?”


Ball: Who. Who. Who. Who. Who let the dogs ouuuuut…

ME: Enough!

Ball: Chillax dude. Just goofin!’

ME: I’m serious. I don’t have all day to practice your damn sport. I have a job. A wife. A son. A home to take care of. That’s a lot! I don’t need this guff from you.

Ball: K. Why do it?


Ball: Whoa…

ME: I’m not finished -N. F.U.N. Fun.

Ball: Doesn’t sound like you’re having fun.

ME: (No response)

Ball: Dig this. You can’t have high expectations based on nothing but ego. Leggo your ego, Bro.  Practice if you want to improve. Or don’t. But just realize…expectations without effort is as pointless as…asking ‘Who Let The Dogs Out? 

ME: Expectation without effort is pointless…that’s a good…point.

Ball: Thanks…ooh, I got one more for ya to contemplate, then I gotta roll.  If you don’t put forth the important effort to properly place your expectations, you’ll end up lost in a tumultuous sea of life, restless as the tides, feeling confused and abandoned like a Castaway on a deserted island…that you’ve created in your mind, and finally resorting to talking to a volleyball in a desperate attempt to stay sane.

Mind blown, the volleyball dropped from my hands, bounced a couple times and rolled away. I didn’t expect that a ball could serve me such a profound realization. But, as I’ve discovered, expectations have been hard for me to get a handle on.

But I have to learn how to manage expectations now because I have a son to raise and he will expect me to set his not too high nor too low but right where he needs them.