October 3rd, 2014 § 4 comments § permalink

it is october and muggy. the air is thick and catches in your throat and nostrils when i walk outside. there’s a promise of rain that’s afraid to deliver.

air conditioning has been switched off because autumn came early, or so i thought, and i’m reliant on the windows to provide air flow.  i returned from the united kingdom on wednesday and my body begs for sleep before i want to let it. i’m afraid my wife will get too cold if i open up all the windows overnight, so i just pull the one in our bedroom, figuring she can close it when she returns for the night. her days are filled with work she loves, and her nights are filled with her passion. sometimes i envy her go ability. an ability that takes her sleep deprived body from event to event. from memory to memory. she lives a poetic life that i constantly try to interrupt with moments of rest.

i pop a pill to keep me asleep all night. a jet lag recovery tactic that usually works. the fan blows the air in from the window over my body and the manufactured waves crash over my eyes as i drift away into a river of dreams i’ll never remember.

at 5:00, i wake. about two hours from my normal routine. there’s the perfect patter of rain outside my window and i savor the sound. kristin sleeps as if the world is turned off. i toss and turn hoping to grab an extra hour of sleep, but it is no use. my body thinks it’s 11am and i’ve wasted the day already. i kiss her sleeping beauty face and slide out of bed. the world awaits.

coffee is a different word in Europe. it means espresso and care, most of the time. it also means instant poison at other times and i haven’t quite understood that dichotomy. the early morning and the espresso beans from a trip to kansas city and the espresso machine from my mom and dad gives me time to make coffee as  Europe defines it this morning. a treat i may have to turn into habit.

i crack the windows and let the rain wake me up before the aroma of coffee will take me to a lake, a dock, and a sunrise from my youth. the memories of smells and moments forever intertwined. a stream of consciousness out of my  control.

it is in this setting. the world dark. the sky crying tears of sadness for the end of summer, and tears of joy for the coming winter slumber, and coffee hot enough to burn even my father’s tongue that i find time to type. time to remind myself of my passion. time to find myself, my God, and my peace.

it is Friday, and the weekend is off to a great start. i hope yours will do the same.


i am the frito bandito

September 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

my dad built our basement.

he hung clear plastic in front of the door to prevent dust and icky things from getting upstairs. i don’t remember when he finished, but it was after i shared a bedroom with my siblings, and before they gave me their old waterbed.

when i was older he redid the bathroom. it could be that the eighth of an inch thick carpeting and outdated counter tops didn’t help our resale value, or perhaps he was just bored. either way, he decided tile was in order, and that he could do it himself.

he rented a tile cutter from Ace Hardware, back when it was in a strip mall, before it moved opposite the Walmart nobody wanted into a bigger space with easier accessibility. this was when they let the boy scouts set up a tent and sell hot dogs for a dollar. we would go to Ace for this or that, get hot dogs, and then walk across the strip mall to Von Hansen’s Meats and gorge ourselves on beef jerky. Dad would out eat me, though not for lack of trying.

when he decided to tile the bathroom, he crouched on his knees a lot. i would sit on the couch just outside the bathroom watching TV, going in to check on him every once in a while. why are you doing that? what does that do? are you sure that’s straight? you missed a spot? over there, Dad. 

i was too little to be helpful, or rather too large. in the clouds that make up that memory, all i see is a giant on his knees in faded jeans and an old shirt hunched over a floor. there was no room for my help.

it was probably somewhere in the third quarter of the Timberwolves game when it started. a deep voice belting over the screeching tennis shoes:


he sang it like it was his Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd, only he learned it from a Fritos commercial and it had no life giving ability. over and over he belted. adding a couplet here and there just to mix it up. usually the added lines were about the problem the project presented. sometimes it would be about the tile cutter not cutting straight, or clean. mostly, though, it was just about a frito bandito. aye. yai. yai. yai.

when my wife and i moved into our first home, i immediately identified the projects. the first was an outdated banister, then the lack of doors in the basement hallway, and then perhaps the most exciting project: a deck. i grew up with decks. i – perhaps mistakenly – remember helping dad build a deck in the first home i knew. a little boy with a Donald Duck t-shirt on and yellow shorts he refused to let mom wash hammering away at a nail bigger than his hand. a deck. a place for the grill and summer eating. a place to sit and dream. to enjoy the outdoors. a place to relax and forget about life’s worries and to-do lists. a deck.

it took us two years. first i had to rip out the apparatus the previous owner built around a massive ant-infested stump. in doing so, i learned no permit was ever attained, nor was the platform up to code. then, we removed the stump and thankfully our ant problem. my wife made me hire people to do this, although i still believe i could have done it with enough elbow grease and determination.

finally came the summer where we had the budget, and the time. friends gathered and helped me with parts. digging holes, clearing dirt, laying the foundation, and finally the planks. there were days, though, when i was alone. when the task at hand required no help and just needed to get done. one of those days was installing the chicken wire around the foundation to prevent critters from burrowing under the deck, dying, and stinking up the yard and house.

as i cut and stapled chicken wire it came out of my mouth like an old hymn. the top of the deck is only 15 inches off the ground, and i am the six foot giant my dad is, hunched over a project, tedium taking over my brain. a podcast squawked in my ears and still it flowed from my lips.


i sang it three or four times before i realized i was singing it. unroll the chicken wire. i am. cut the chicken wire off. the frito. staple the wire to the boards. BANDITO! cut off the excess wire. aiy, yai, yai, yai!

the rhythm of the tune, and the teaching’s of my father all rolled up into a moment of instinct. a moment where motions superseded thought. a moment like many other moments where time spent with dad, learning from dad, just happened.

when it dawned on me what was happening, i smiled like the Joker. if my neighbors were outside instead of inside hiding from the threatening rain they may have marked me psycho. i am the Frito Bandito.

my grandpa doesn’t strike me as one to sing songs while working, but i’ve been known to be wrong. i don’t know if Dad learned it from Grandpa in the same way that i learned it from Dad, but if he did, it takes some of the crazy out of the nonsensical singing. it unites a line of Siewerts together in labor song. determination, and simple want-to overcoming the tedium. a helping hand whether the hand is in another country, or another state, it reaches out of the song to encourage us to carry on and to remind us that the reward at the end of the project is a bag of Fritos.

Deck Project – Day 7 – 10

August 26th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

we bore holes into the foundation and into the peers.

anchors into the peers, and beams into the anchors and ledger into the foundation. support support support.

it took 3 hours, and we made little progress.


mendards screwed up. we ordered plastic with our treated pine boards. they delivered aluminum. the tag states “not for use with treated pine.”


10 foot flashing doesn’t fit into my car. i borrowed my in-laws’ highlander, was stopped by 4 trains, and had to explain to the people at menards that no i do not want to return this, i just want what i ordered at least 3 times.

i was stopped by another train before returning the highlander.

upon returning, i surrendered the day to the overgrown grass, bushes, and the torrential rain.


mission accomplished.

friends fought the heat with me, raising hammers, drills, and sawzalls in the name of progress. it started slow. flashing, then ledger board. anchors to follow. we adjusted the boards we already put up. alignment is key. the pitch must go away from the house.

we lay joist after joist after joist. we missed nail heads almost as often as we hit them. the slope of the hill our house rests on was off, and we stopped to notch 5 joists to keep the pitch. it’s all about the pitch.

two of us rained nails into joist hangers, while another cut bridging, and still another nailed the bridging into place. keep the pitch. make it strong.

then they left. they had to go. life was happening.

my father-in-law stayed. we cut and we nailed, and we double checked. shortly after 5, we stood and looked at the framing. it was good.

photo 1


weathermen are never accurate, but they struck fear into my schedule. i fled work at 3 hoping to beat the rain.

i scheduled the inspection for Tuesday, then rolled out the landscaping tarp. there was rock i’d removed two years ago stored behind a bush in my yard. i moved it back, on top of the tarp. the idea is to prevent weed and grass growth. the reality will be an investment in weed killing spray.

the city asked for chicken wire, so i unrolled 40 feet of it and stapled it into place along the perimeter. prevent dead critters from getting in there, or at least pretend like you’re trying. this is what the city wants, and this is what the city gets.

it rained as i stapled the last few feet into place. it rained as i stretched and reached to the sky. it rained as i put the tools in the garage, and it rained as i said a prayer over the foundation.

please let it be firm. let it be approved.

photo 3


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3 & 4

Day 5 & 6

Deck Project – Day 5 & 6

August 22nd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

he came, he saw, he left.

i caught him as he was writing out a green slip. approved.

that’s it?

yeah, the holes look fine. 

i showed him our anchors for the peers.

yeah, that’ll work fine.

he handed me the green slip and walked away.


the call came around 2. be there in 20.

i got home around 5. a pallet of concrete mix, joists, beams, and decking sat on my driveway.

paul arrived and we took stock of our peer heights. we lined up the beams so that the pitch angled away from the house. we dug trenches from hole to hole to hole, and again on the bottom triplet.

the beauty of holes is that they’re mixing basins. we filled them with water, added concrete mix, then repeat. we used the post hole digger to stir. drop, scoop, plop. drop, scoop, plop. the powder and water turning to a grey sludge that would make  Oliver’s stomach grumble.

photo 1

at the top we added a tube to clean up the peer and give us a better base to work with.

the foundation is set, now to frame. the rain is trying to get in the way, but if we’re lucky we’ll be an inspection, and decking away from a finished project come Monday.photo 2

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3 & 4

Deck Project – Day 3 & 4

August 19th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Saturday we dug.

i woke early, scarfed a cup of a coffee, then fled to the inlaws where a bigger vehicular transport awaited. i procured an auger, mini donuts, apple streusel, and lots of water. the fear and avoidance of muddy foot prints and a wife’s disdain made this five dollars well spent.

friends arrived, including my father-in-law, and we set to work. we remeasured the hole placement, and we dug. the auger is a gas powered machine, where in theory two people hold the sides, the engine is started, and the 10 inch diameter giant drill bit does all the work going deep into the dirt.

this theory of course, assumes that ground is not ground, but butter. as the ground is actually dirt, clay, rocks, and roots, this was much more work than one would hope. i am thankful for friends with determination, and a willingness strain muscles. it took us about 3 hours to dig six holes 42+ inches deep.

hole 1

we took turns manning the auger, one man on the throttle, the other holding it steady. pushing and pulling. standing our ground, refusing to let it throw us in a looney toon cartoon fashion. and we sweat. we sweat. we sweat. we sweat until our hats changed colors and our noses were like cliffs and sweat drops were free diving off them.

we cleaned the holes with the old fashioned post hold digger and cleaned up the dirt from the holes before calling it a day. then we laid stone slabs over the holes to prevent any vermin from trespassing.

holes covered

this was a good day.


Day 4 was easy from a labor standpoint. a friend who knows decks took me to Menards. we placed our order for concrete, treated pine, and planking. so much planking. at the end i produced my credit card for all the necessaries. despite the price tag i knew was coming, it was still hard to swallow. at the end of it, we are still running $300 under budget and (fingers crossed) everything is now purchased.

Day 1

Day 2

Switch to our mobile site