S M Natale Writer & Novelist

Where Stories Begin

The Gentleman’s Guide to the Honey Do List

Written By: S. M. Natale


This is the introduction From

A Proposed How-To Project




So you’ve made it to the big time, congratulations. You’ve got the Armani suits, the corner office, the luxury car; you’re a Doctor, a Lawyer, an Indian Chief, Captain of Industry. All the work and sacrifice through school and internships has finally provided you with everything you have ever wanted or needed. If you were smart, and I’m sure you are gauging your career growth, you have obtained all the Big Boy toys and/or are in the process, plus you’ve found that perfect young wife. You are to be applauded and commended.

Now ladies please don’t be offended, but I am going to write something here that may sound chauvinistic, but really it is not at all. Gentleman, I hope you were indeed smart enough to get all your toys before you got that ring, because from this point forward, the pretty ‘Little Woman’ will be the most expensive thing you every buy.

Everything you have done to date has prepared you for a life of financial, and therefore marital bliss, so you thought. You took her on that perfect honeymoon and then you went out and bought her that perfect little portion of the American Dream, her dream home. Yes ladies I know, “You did it together.”

Well it’s not the dream yet, but it will be. Ah.. “but here by is the rub” as they say.

Once you signed the closing papers, you got a mortgage, a house, a little slice of heaven, and gave birth to the most misunderstood portion of married life. The Honey-Do List.

Gentlemen, nothing you have done to date has prepared you for what is about to come. Remember the assertion above about the most expensive thing? You’re about to find out what I meant, and because you love your wife, you really want to give her everything she desires. You just don’t know what everything is yet.

You, my fine young sir, are about to embark on a career you never prepared for. And if you think the tuitions and school loans and interest were expensive and painful you haven’t experienced the ache yet to come, physical and financial and sometimes you will have to remind yourself, I LOVE MY WIFE. Actually at some point this phrase will become a mantra, silently recited over and over as she parades you through the Home Depot Garden Department.

Welcome to the real big time, the only one that really matters in the vast scheme of things. Keeping the little lady happier than her best friend or neighbor. And that my entrepreneurial friend means blisters, smashed thumbs and sore backs. However this little guide will help you through the doldrums of big box store aisles, swatches, incomprehensible designers, pricey contractors and most importantly, mother-in-laws.

In the pages that follow I will try to impart my many years of wisdom and insight in both female marital satisfaction, construction style, and how to keep a roof over her head in the style to which you have allowed her to become accustomed without killing yourself or the expense of a murder trial.

As provenance of the information contained within these pages I have been happily cohabitating with the same beautiful woman since 1993. Serving most of the years since as her husband with minimal complaint or hostility thereby garnering myself a place of relative tranquility. In marriage I also gained rather extensive and successful experience in the tasks related to the Honey-Do-List.

Satisfactory accomplishment of these extramarital assignments is mainly due to a thirty-year sideline career in Building Construction, progressing from tradesman to Construction Manager. Through all these “achievements”, I have been hailed as “one of those guys,” a characterization made famous with the line:


You know, those guys with skills. You send them into the wilderness with a pocketknife and a Q-tip and they build you a shopping mall.”


Robin Monroe – Six Days, Seven Nights.

Written by Michael Browning


With these accolades tucked neatly in my pocket I feel very comfortable imparting to you the wisdom I have learned thus far.

From this point forward you must learn the mantra of this book and it’s ultimate meaning. Now I am going to venture this book found it’s way into your possession as a gift. Probably gift wrapped by the beautifully manicured hands of a loved one. My bet is this gift was presented to you by the “little woman.”

Now as this Book was a gift please remember the paradigm of gift selection. A gift is typically chosen with a particular thought in the mind of the giver, the presumption of the giver is this gift is something you need.

Okay now you say, “I Love My Wife.”

Say the mantra just once more and come to grips with the fact someone believes you need to obtain the information contained within. Good now take a breath and continue reading.

Now that you have realized though “master of the universe” that you are, someone has recognized there is a fundamental skill set you have yet to acquire for their purposes.

Alright, let’s repeat the mantra again as this concept of reality sinks in, “I love my wife!”

Now I am writing this book partially in memory of and also in memoriam to my father. He, just like you, was a Captain of Industry and an indomitable Lion of the Boardroom. His one fault, if it could be described as so, was an inability to grasp basic trade skills and concepts.

For example, to my father, a screwdriver was first a cocktail made with vodka and orange juice and secondly a multi-purpose tool. The latter most often used as an ice pick during the holidays to create the former. Whether Robertson or Phillips it did not matter. He knew that either one could accomplish the task of breaking up that block of ice. However, he also was well aware if a screwdriver could not be found anything with a handle and a shaft, like let’s say a butter knife, could possibly work for this job if a ball peen was added to the mix. And yes, just in case you were wondering, I didn’t make this up, I was the one he sent to the basement to get him the hammer.

Now if any of the terms used in the above paragraph instilled consternation, reflection or confusion and/or you apply a similar association to the uses of the tools above, this “gift’ was aptly chosen. I suspect that since you are holding this book, at some point someone in your home observed you performing a likely incident or reasoned the application for which a tool in your possession was applied was perhaps questionable. Therefore I strongly suggest you continue reading or a least reference this book in the future. Fore if read, in all likelihood you can avoid the type of mishaps my father wrought upon his family.

There is a reason for homeowner’s insurance; typically it’s the homeowner. That justification, my accomplished Gentleman, is you.


I will explain this further by relaying the story of one of my father’s mishaps and the accidental impact on my father’s wife. Which depending upon your perspective, was more likely to the misfortune of the State Farm Insurance Company.

The holidays were a special time around our home in charming suburban Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. The year was 1971 but Lansdowne was still very much 1950’s-esque and I was soon to be celebrating my eleventh Christmas. All these years later I remember this Christmas event as if it were yesterday, perhaps the reason for the vivid memory was all the screaming.

Firstly I’d like to tell Mr. Roberts, my sixth grade teacher, I did not appreciate the book report assignment over the Holidays. Apparently he did not comprehend that this particular break in the school year was the most cherished of all and an 11-year old boy should in no way be inflicted with the stigmata of homework. Especially when this assignment is elicited via a note home to the folks that must be signed and returned with the report submission. Now I can say it, but then I was not allowed to, “S.O.B.!”

But this little dirge aside, it was Christmas vacation and our home was alive with the festivities of the season. This house on Greenwood Avenue was aglow with holiday decorations inside and out. A seasonal tradition I, with ample, (bordering on lunatic), encouragement from my wife continue to ever more expanding proportions.

One of the family traditions was the lighting of Bayberry candles on Christmas Eve. Setting flame to these tapers ceremoniously placed on the mantelpiece this holy night and allowing them to be totally consumed was to insure good luck and safe fortune throughout the season. I am not sure how this tradition began and I am not going to research it, but I will give you my take on the subject.

Now as it was explained to me by, yeah you guessed it, my Dad; for the luck to flow from the candles to the household the candles must be lit after nightfall as the stars were rising and was to be accompanied by the first toast of the season. Once lit the Bayberries must be totally consumed by the flame, which drifts the blessings into the ambiance of the evening celebrations.

{You may note through the stories in this book and some of my other published work, toasting..well, the consumption of alcoholic beverages, was a continual theme throughout any celebration and/or tradition in my family, and in some cases perhaps the only reason for said function and/or event.}  

To continue, if you know anything about quality Bayberry tapers you then are aware that they are intended to burn for quite a while. Someone once told me these types of candles burn at a rate of one and one half to two inches per hour. I believe that someone was again my Dad, but I cannot recall for sure so I won’t blame him if this is inaccurate. However it was he that yearly made sure our Bayberry tapers were at least 12 inches tall and purveyed a minimum of six hours of candlelight encompassing the entire Christmas Eve celebration. Most of which at our house were quite vivacious and crowded.

To give you an idea of what these parties were like, I remember my brother and I were assisting our neighbor, Mr. Bardsley, move his 9000 pound organ from his house four doors away to our house when a police squad car pulled up as we were rolling the organ down the side walk. As I recall it, first the police officers inquired as to where the organ was going. Then after Mr. Bardsley convinced them that the organ was indeed his, he invited the cops to the party. At around 9-o-clock he called them, via the dispatcher, asking them where they were, and to be sure bring more ice. Two officers showed up 5 minutes later, with the ice, and I don’t recall them leaving before all the older kids were sent of to bed at midnight.   

Now I will tell you my interpretation of this tradition and why it is continued. The life of these candles and the forbidden nature of extinguishing the flame by any means other than by natural consumption is for but one purpose, extending the party and giving more time for the alcohol to flow.

Even when the party guests had gone home and the children were chided off to bed my father would pour that last scotch and watch as the last of the candles’ flames gave birth to Christmas morning. Secretly I think my mother suspected that he needed to take a few moments at the end of the festivities using the last failing flickers of light as an excuse to steel himself for the unqualified duties required by assembly instructions.

I know this is a lot to read about Bayberry candles and you are wondering what the hell does this have to do with a home improvement book? Well I’m gonna tell ya.

You see, sometimes the simplest little tasks on the Honey-Do-List can have immeasurable consequences.

“Honey, would you put the Bayberry candles on the mantel?”

Seems harmless right?

Apparently, there is an unwritten rule or unknown specification that, for whatever the reason, the thickness of the candle never matches the holder and the technique of placing a candle into a candleholder requires a certain amount of skill and ability. It all has something to do with the concept of plumb and these were proficiencies my Dad just did not posses in quantities that did not require the assistance of the fire department and the insurance adjuster.

I think my mother knew this, which is why I was forced to stay home that particular day to work on my book report while she went shopping, (thanks again… S.O.B.). And since I was there, baby-sit my two-year-old brother, and though I did not know it at the time, my Dad as well.

Remember me telling you this little chapter of life is indelibly entrenched, well this is when the screaming begins. Not twenty minutes after my mother leaves, I am in my room actually doing what I was supposed to be doing when I hear my father yelling for me downstairs. A loud screeching and panicked pronunciation of my name I’d never heard before jarred me from my desk and I bounded down the stairs to see the Kitchen engulfed in fire and smoke.

There is my dad, frantically trying to dial the phone and at the same time find a pot to fill with water. To completely comprehend the madness of the situation I ran into, you must realize modern technology of today does not apply. There is no 911 system, the rotary phone is mounted on the wall next to the refrigerator, and the cabinet for the pots and pans is on the other side of the kitchen.

Not to say our home didn’t have modern technology, it did. We had the extended cord for the telephone receiver, which was indeed providential because it allowed my Dad to cross the Kitchen towards the pots and pans. One tiny problem did however exist. The rotary dialer on the base was still on the other side of the room mounted to the wall. But that didn’t matter because he didn’t know the phone number to the fire department anyway.

I don’t know if when you were a kid they did this, but when I was going to elementary school we always got a visit from a fireman and he would give a great little talk about what to do if a fire breaks out.

I do know that when my Dad was growing up and going to school, (including college) these visits, it seems, did not occur.

So with the vision of inferno in my head, I run back upstairs and snatched my napping little brother from his crib, whose bedroom just happens to be directly above the blazing kitchen. I run back downstairs with him in my arms, as I’m running out the door there’s Dad searching through Mom’s address book, I presume for the emergency numbers. I yell, “Dad its on the phone!”

Remember the stickers the phone company used to adhere to the telephone? In Case of Emergency….like this one.

I sprint across the yard to our neighbor’s house and plunk my little brother on the stoop asking them to watch him while I return to help my father and off I go. Running into our rear door that is now belching thick black smoke just in time to see my dad throwing water towards the stove. Me yelling, “NO” just as he realizes, oops, that was a mistake. Of course realization came with the explosive whoosh of expanding fire drowning out my voice.

Fortunately I hear sirens as the fire that started on the stove is now distributed across the entire kitchen with the splash of the water. Note: do not throw water on a fire started by an electrical appliance or an accelerant like oil or let’s say, candle wax. It tends to make things worse.

The nice thing about living a very small town, and Lansdowne was very small, only about one square mile, is the fire department typically arrives with considerable alacrity. As I was dragging my dad by the arm, pot in hand, out the door the fireman were running in. Minutes later they were placing large fans at all the now opened doors venting out all the acrid smoke.

Conveniently my mother returned from her shopping trip just in time to see the fireman running in. She actually had to pull over to allow the fire trucks to pass as they rushed to the scene so she was provided a pretty clear path home, with escort. I also believe this is the first time I actually heard my mother curse. But that aside, the explanation to the fire chief as to how the fire started alleviated any story that my Dad might have to invent later.

I tried to get the official report to publish here but it seems those records no longer exist. So I’ll paraphrase by simply saying; the task of placing Bayberry candles in a candleholder by melting wax to keep the tapers plumb and level in a foil pie tin heated on an electric stove burner is not advisable unless your intent is to provide your wife with professionally cleaned carpets, drapery and furniture and a completely remodeled $20,000.00 Kitchen.

So you see Gentleman this book does have a purpose. One you may not be aware of, but someone in your house is.





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