It might be just a shed for many people, but for Karen Norkowski, it was more than that. The shed, her crafting room, is a reminder of 20 years of marriage, a husband's love and now her place of serenity.
The La Mesa widow has been fighting with the city of La Mesa and her neighbor for weeks to save the last thing her late husband left her after he lost his battle with cancer.
Her husband, Charles Norkowski, a former Marine, had built it for her after he was diagnosed.
"I had no idea he was capable of this," Karen said. "This is really how he showed his love. He was not one to sit down and bend your ear about how this that and the other. He showed."
But now La Mesa is telling her she needed to teardown her shed because of a neighbor's complaint. The city said the shed was built without a permit, covers a drain access point and was too close to a neighbor's property line, making it a fire hazard.
"When I opened the notice it's like the floor had dropped out," Karen said.
The Norkowskis were high school sweethearts. They went to college together, traveled and had two children.
"He was just a really good guy," Karen said of her late husband. "Anything that anyone needed — neighbors, friends — he was always there."
When Charles was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2015, he decided to start his passion project. Karen enjoys making wreaths but was always crammed in the couple's garage. She had always hoped that Charles would build a space like this for her.
Karen works as a social worker where she investigates child abuse and works with families in crisis. Making wreaths was a stress relief for her and it was important that she has a quiet place that was an outlet.
But Karen couldn't have imagined how well the shed turned out.
"I never would have thought it would look as amazing as it does," she said.
Sitting in her shed, Karen could still picture Charles working on it.
"I can feel him in here," she said.
Charles would work on the shed whenever he has the chance. There were days where Charles would go to chemotherapy then returned home to work on the shed, Karen said.
When he couldn't work on it any longer, an army of volunteers stepped in to help.
Shane Pliskin, the neighbor who filed the complaint, was shocked to learn of the predicament he put Karen in. Pliskin said he filed the complaint on his mother-in-law's behalf because of the safety issues. He still stands by that
Pliskin says he works with vets and is still willing to help Karen find the resources she needs to move the shed so the doesn't have to tear it down.
The city of La Mesa is also willing to help Karen to locate a place on her property that will work for the shed, but told Karen she has until March 28 to either relocate it or tear the shed down. After that, she faces steep daily fines of up to $1,000.
"I know with the community support that we have in our friends and family that people will come together like they have before to try and help me get it done," Karen said. "But don't just ask me to tear it down."