Perseverance lessons learned from the Green Beast – Part 2

I suppose I could have put this into one post… but since I am no BooMama, Big Mama, or Sarah, I knew I couldn’t hold your attention for that long. Hence the 2-part post…

As I am sure you have all waited with baited breath, let me move forward with where this is all heading.

(I will also mention again, that I asked my husband it he was alright with me writing about this for all of blogdom to read. And he is. I don’t want anyone to think I am trying to dishonor him.)

As I was discussing yesterday – we’ve had to have several talks with Abbie about perseverance and keeping commitments. She has been having a hard time with dance and likes to find creative ways to stay home from it.

The best tale I have for her, when it comes to such a topic, is the tale of her daddy and “the Green Beast”. Now, words will never do it justice. I can not create the visual image necessary to fully appreciate the true dedication and pay-off involved in this tale. But stick with me and try your hardest to visualize what I am about to tell you…

When we bought our first home, like most young couples, we had a lot of hodge podge furniture. None of it matched. A dresser from his mom and dad… a coffee table left behind by an old roommate of mine… ditto on the (laminate-covered) kitchen table… etc. It all worked nicely and did it’s job. But it wasn’t what this new homeowner had in mind for decor.

We made a stop with my folks in Maryland on our way to New Hampshire to get things out of storage (yes – there was a good reason our stuff was in NH and we were in Wisconsin – but that is another tale.) Frederick is filled with antique stores, so we decided to look around and see if we could find anything that we needed.

We had a mudroom in our new home and so I wanted a nice bench to sit on and remove shoes and boots, with a shelf under it to keep them on. We looked and found several. But each time, my husband said “Oh, I can do that. And it will cost a lot less than that.”

Since he had totally impressed me early on in our marriage by his ability to change my car battery and oil (“what? you mean I no longer have to take it to one of those oil-job-y places??!!! COOL!”) I relented… And when we stopped at his folks home in PA, he bought the supplies needed and fashioned us a nice sturdy bench. His only mistake (in his mind – not mine) was that he made it out of oak and I was planning on painting it. So he was sad about the whole “painted oak” issue.

But we all survived the paint job and moved it into our home, where it sat, in all it’s glory, in the mudroom. (I’m pretty sure it was the first thing I moved into the house.)

As everything was moved into our home, I began to imagine a lovely clock here… a nice tv cabinet there… a coffee table that matches the rest of the furniture right there… In my mind, I had our home looking like something out of the trendiest home magazines. Only our budget looked like something out of “frugal living at it’s frugalest” magazine.

To rectify this, my husband reminded me of his carpentry skills. He had, after all, fashioned a mighty fine bench. What could be so hard about learning to fashion my shabby chic style furniture?? I got to work finding images of what I had in mind so that he could begin planning some of it out.

The lovely thing, he told me (only, he didn’t use the word “lovely”) was that the former homeowners had left some wood in the garage. Plenty to make several items.

With picture in hand, he set out to build me a freestanding floor cabinet for the bathroom. One that would hold towels and various other bathroom items. I imagined my towels looking like the loveliest of towels sitting in their new cabinet home.

He worked and worked on this cabinet. Every afternoon, he got home from work and headed to the garage to work on it. I was not allowed in to see his handiwork.

(As a side note, but one that bears importance further in the story… I wanted to paint the living room a shade of green. One day, my husband came home with a can (just one – for the entire living room) of green paint. Do I need to mention that it wasn’t even close to the right shade? It was a shade of green alright… but not the right shade.)

Finally, the moment of unveiling arrived. He carefully carried his handiwork to the house, from the garage and brought it into the bathroom where I was giddily waiting. He was so proud and so puffed up with his work he was about to burst.

I about burst too – into tears – when I looked at this cabinet.

It was green! The green from the can of paint he had bought. It had paneling (another “left behind” item) for the door. It had moulding-trim pieced together and painted white, for the top trim… The door knob was screwed into the skinny narrow trim that framed the door. The door wouldn’t stay closed so it had a hook and eye clasp for keeping it shut. The shelves were different sizes.

To say it looked nothing like my vision, would be an understatement. I believe my exact quote was “You are not bringing that into my house.” Don’t hate me or send me hate mail for that comment. It wasn’t my proudest moment. (though it was a moment filled with my pride) Fortunately, we laugh (really hard) about it now – hence the reference as “the Green Beast”.

Poor Sean went out to the garage dejected. However, he kept plugging away and continued to try out and refine his carpentry skills.

Not that there still wasn’t a learning curve he had to overcome. He also brought in a coffee table that was as tall a kitchen table; an end table with a drawer that was nearly impossible to open without dislocating a shoulder; many items held together with screws (as opposed to dovetail joinery) and made of construction-grade lumber pieces (what those left behind pieces actually were)… the list goes on.

But as it goes on, it also started to improve and pieces became more refined and crafted with more skill. He got to where I loved the pieces he had made, but after looking at them for weeks he would get irritated with an imperfection and rebuild it. He did this to several of my favorite pieces while I was away from home. I was distraught – only to come home and find furniture that was even lovelier still.

(*I tried to get good images of his work, but by the time I did, the lighting was all wrong… I hope to post some more soon.)He got books from the library and looked online for tips. He learned as much as he could.

Suddenly my house was filled with beautiful handcrafted items. Items that he has written special secret messages to me on before staining. Items crafted with so much love and skill that just thinking about them now, makes me tear up. Pieces that our children will be fighting over one day, when we are gone. ;)

When I’ve told this story to Sweetums (obviously cutting it down for brevity; she is only 6 after all and would surely fall asleep in the middle of a tale this length) I’ve always pointed out how Daddy could have given up. He could have (cussed me, which he probably did, anyway and) walked out to the garage and thrown away his tools.

But he didn’t. He was determined to learn something and improve. He didn’t quit just because his wife crushed his pride. He didn’t give up just because it wasn’t easy. Like Sweetums, a lot of things come easy to him. But he resolved to learn it and improve through all of the cuts and gashes. We sometimes joke that had I not been so honest, he’d probably still be making “Beasts”.

His craftsmanship is beautiful. The skill involved in the pieces he has created for our home blow me away. I’m so proud of him for working so hard.

And this is what I want Sweetums to take away from all of this. Not everything worth doing comes easy. Some things take a lot of hard work, determination and time. It’s a funny story with an important message.

(*I tried to get good images of his work, but by the time I did, the lighting was all wrong… I hope to post some more soon.)


  1. Karla, that’s such a great story about the need to persevere. I don’t know if Sweetums got anything from it, but I did. :-)

  2. Martial Arts is great about teaching perserverence. As a matter of fact, taekwon do has it as one of its 5 tenets.

    Sean did Tang-Soo-Do when he was younger and was gifted in it. They are usually good with kids.

    Great story about perseverance! Love you.

  3. I’ve been in exactly the same place.

    But you know, if you hadn’t been honest with him, he wouldn’t have had any reason to really learn the craft and get as good at it as he is now. And you’d have a house full of sub-par furniture because you let him think it was OK.

    I’ve gone through exactly the same thing with exactly the same results. You did the right thing.

  4. What a beautiful story. (I read part I and II together).

  5. ahhhhh
    what a wonderful story. loved it all. you are a great story teller. xo

  6. This is a great story, thanks for sharing!! So true…not to give up even if the truth hurts!

    I think if husbands and wives told each other the truth, there would not be so many divorces. And you would not have this story to share with us or your little Sweetums.

  7. I wish that you had a picture to post of the cabinet that Sean made for me. It is one of my prized possessions. In fact I try to encourage everyone who comes in my house to use the bathroom, just so that they can admire it.
    I love you all!

  8. Terri @ In His Hands says

    Oh my gosh, what a great story! Thanks for sharing!

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