He’d saved broken fixtures, unrecognizable hardware, scraps of wood and plastic and fiberglass, every old nail, bolt, and fastener.
Now he had to save whatever scraps were left of his dignity. An unexpected layoff claimed his good-paying job with bonuses. Who was he without his career—heck, without even a minimum-wage job?
Everyone turned him down, even the home improvement centers where he’d spent much of his time—and money, back when he had some. They didn’t know what an expert in building and maintenance they rejected. “Overqualified,” they said. Sure, he had a good education, but he was more than his degree. He had once helped build a fine house with his own two hands. Not the framework, electrical or plumbing, but a good deal of the interior and exterior, using the finest materials.
Lately he searched the discard piles at those same centers for pieces of two-by-fours, fractions of plywood sheets, and sections of molding too short for most builders to bother with.
When friends heard what he was doing, they searched their garages and attics. Soon he had a door, a window, a ceiling fan. A garage sale turned up a scratched sink. A family member donated some used light fixtures.
He drew up some plans and framed up a small building, using an existing slab where a rusted metal prefab once stood.
The wife spotted a neighbor’s weathered fence boards piled at the street for trash pickup. Placed at a 45-degree angle, they became a contemporary façade for the front door and a hinged window over the counter top, which he tiled from mismatched surplus, politely requested from a local flooring supply.
“What do you need for your building?” was the question from mother, wife, and children when Christmas, birthday, and Father’s Day rolled around. That got him the things he couldn’t find for free or on the clearance tables.
Each weekday morning after his wife left for her workplace, he walked out the back door of their home and traveled the few yards to reach what was now his full-time job. He found peace in the routine.
“I’m afraid you’ll get depressed,” his wife had said at first. “You aren’t used to having so many hours to fill during the day. I don’t like the idea of you feeling sad or lonely.”
“I don’t want you to think about me while you’re at work,” he’d replied. He pointed to his project. “When I’m busy in there, I’m safe and happy.”
In his little building, he focused his energy, contained his worry, and sheltered his ego. Through hundreds of rejections of his resume, he pursued his endeavor. Each evening, he presented to his wife the small accomplishments of every stage of completion. Together they celebrated them.
The building became the place to go, whether he wanted to relax in solitude or entertain his wife, family, or friends. It was his own creation, the nonliving thing he was most proud of.
When almost two years had passed, he received a job offer in another state. Of all the changes he had to make to take it, including a permanent move, parting with his man cave was the most difficult.
At Christmas, I look back at that period in our lives and think of that building. It reminds me of Joseph doing the best he could with what he had for Mary and Jesus. And Joseph was a carpenter like my husband.
Joy fills my heart, because God used the man cave to show me the kind of person my husband really is.
About the Author:
Cynthia is a former advertising designer, marketing director, and interior decorator who holds a BA in art education with a minor in history. While employed by a large daily newspaper, she tried to rewrite some ad copy without permission and got into trouble for it. At that point, she knew she was destined to become an author.
When she’s not cooking Cajun or Italian food, Cynthia writes historical and contemporary teen fiction containing elements of mystery and romance. For more about Cynthia and her books, check out her Author page on our Write Integrity Press website.
And before you go, Cynthia has left a special recipe from her Christmas to yours! Enjoy!
A Recipe (sort of... I don't use measurements) for holiday parties or when you’re tired of turkey and ham.
One can 14-16 oz. Alaskan Pink Salmon, Drained but not dry
Italian Bread Crumbs
Slice of Wheat Bread or some Saltine Crackers (optional...can use less bread crumbs if using either of these)
Zatarain's Fish Fry (or other seasoned cornmeal-based fish fry—Louisiana Fish Fry, Tony Chachere’s, Cajun Injector, Bootsie’s, Cajun King)
Chopped Bell Pepper (one large)
Chopped Onion, or onion flakes
Garlic, or garlic powder
Celery (optional...would be nice if you have it, but I used celery salt)
NOTE: If you use any saltine crackers or celery salt, DO NOT ADD EXTRA SALT to the patties.)
Mix some flour with a little fish fry to give the flour a pale yellow color, and set aside. You will use
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Pour about a half inch depth of vegetable oil in a frying pan, and have some extra oil ready for adding later.
In a bowl, mix the eggs, salmon, bread crumbs, bread/saltines (optional), a LITTLE fish fry (Zatarain's is very spicy), the bell pepper, onion, garlic, celery (or celery salt if you like). When all this is mixed well, add enough milk to moisten and allow you to form a meatball in your two hands with the mixture. Test cook a small glob of the mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds to see if you like the taste.
Heat the oil in the pan to medium. Form one meatball at a time and flatten it and coat it with the flour/fish fry mixture. (If you make the patties too big, they will crack.)
Place in pan and continue to form patties, dredge, and fry. Turn each one when bottom looks brown. Lower the heat so that the oil does not begin to burn.
Add more oil before beginning to fry your next batch. (This recipe will make 10 or 12 patties.)
Drain patties on paper towels on large plates or a long pan.
They freeze and reheat well. (and taste even better)
Good with ketchup or tartar sauce.
12 Books of Christmas:
You can win a copy of Cynthia's YA book, 8 Notes to a Nobody, along with 11 other books (US residents only) by commenting below and leaving your email address for us to add to our monthly newsletter list. (Unsubscribe anytime.) Here's a question you can answer: Grieving losses at Christmas is normal, but have you had a change in your life is stirred up in happy memories, like Cynthia's?