Replacing the Third Brake Light – 2009 Honda Civic EX Coupe


“But I don’t know anything about cars, I’m too afraid that I might mess something up and then have to take it to the shop to get more work done,” you might say. Fine with me – you’re not spending my money. But doing your own work on your vehicle, even if you’re not a mechanic, saves you a TON of money* and gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. And I’m not saying don’t ever go to a shop. There are things I can’t do, I don’t have the necessary tools, I don’t know how to weld, etc. Definitely support your local businesses, but support yourself too. Mechanics have to put food on the table for their families, but you have to keep food on the table for your family.

So here’s the story: I take my 2009 Civic in to get new tires installed. I don’t have the necessary tools to mount the tire on the wheel, so that’s one of the instances I take it to the shop. My inspection expires this month, so I say go ahead and inspect it while it’s there. Normally I check everything myself before I take it in so I can fix whatever’s wrong before it fails, but it was already there and it’s a 4 year old car, I figured I was safe. WRONG. The third brake light (the one in the middle above the trunk) was out. And Honda has decided they need to make more money, so instead of replacing a bulb like you would do in any normal car, you have to replace the entire LED strip. And you HAVE to get it from Honda, as AutoZone does not carry it. The shop wanted $175. $90 for the part, $85 for the labor. Holy cow!

They said it was so expensive because they had to entirely dismantle the rear portion of the car and it’s a very time intensive process ~ around 2 hours. I figured if it takes a mechanic 2 hours, it will take me 4 (or 8, or 2 weekends…), so I waited until I had a free afternoon to take care of it. That afternoon was this past Sunday. I dropped off my thesis to get bound on Saturday morning, then on the way home went to the Honda stealership to pick up the part so I would have it for the next day. It looks like a cheap piece of plastic that some 5 year old Chinese kid made for a total cost of about $3.87, but it cost me $88.59 after tax.

L and I had spent the hottest part of the day in the garden, which was good because I could wait until it cooled down a bit before I started my auto repair work. (I hate having to crawl around under an engine, under the hood, or contorting my body to squeeze into the back of the 2-door Civic and work with tools while I’m dripping in sweat.) My Haynes manual didn’t have anything about replacing the third light (second time they have failed me – first was when I was replacing L’s timing belt in her 2007 Accent), so I did a quick online search and found a text-based walk through on a Civic forum. This post, however, is complete with pictures and my own snarky “humor”. So enjoy!

1. Remove the jogging stroller from the trunk.

2. Lay down the back seats, feeding the center seat belt through the slit so the seat lays down easily.

3. Disconnect the wire that leads to the brake light. This is the view from inside the trunk, looking up.
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4. There are indentations on the front of the rear panel. This is where the panel attaches itself to the rest of the car. Put your fingers under there and pry up. It pops off easily. Don’t break anything (on the car or your body).
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5. The wire that you disconnected from the wiring of the car is still attached to the body. See the little plastic thingy sticking up in the picture below? (You should, it’s circled.) Squeeze it and feed the wire through the hole.The panel is also attached near the rear windshield. Apply a little bit of pressure back there as well, and lift the panel.
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6. Get out of the car, turn the panel over, and remove the screws attaching the speaker protector to the panel.
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7. Remove the non-working LED strip, replace it with the new one.

8. Put everything back together, connect the wire, drink a celebratory beer.

Total time: ~5 minutes.

I then proceeded to make a chocolate cake, which took way longer than replacing the brake light.

A side note: I was fully expecting this to take all afternoon, not 5 minutes. This prohibited me from fixing it right away and bringing it back the next day for re-inspection (in the middle of the month). I ended up having to wait almost 3 hours on 4/29 because of everyone else waiting until the last minute. Chalk this up as another life lesson and add it to the list of reasons why I find it extremely difficult to trust mechanics. Had I allowed them to do the work, would they have been honest and tell me that it only took 5 minutes so they were not charging me the quoted price? Or would they keep that their little secret and pocket that extra cash? It sickens me to think of the latter, and to think that so many nice, well meaning people get taken advantage of by sneaky sharks trying to make a buck.

If you still find yourself reluctant to do the work, bring me your car, the part(s), and something awesome (beer/pie/bratwurst/baseball tickets/baby sitting promise) and I’d be more than happy to do it for or with you!

Join me next weekend (or next next weekend, or next next next weekend) when I replace the heater core in my 1997 Blazer!

*1 ton of pennies = $3,628.74, rounded to the nearest cent.
*1 ton of nickels = $9,071.85, rounded to the nearest nickle
*1 ton of dimes = $39,999.30, rounded to the nearest dime
*1 ton of quarters = $39,999.25, rounded to the nearest quarter
*1 ton of half-dollars = $39,999.50, rounded to the nearest half-dollar
*1 ton of dollar coins = $111,998, rounded to the nearest dollar
*1 ton of dollar bills = $907,185, rounded to the nearest dollar (each US bank note, regardless of denomination, weighs 1 gram. You can figure the rest out from here…)

{this moment}

A Friday ritual: a single photo, sans words, posted to capture “a simple, special, extraordinary moment…I want to pause, savor and remember.” ~SouleMama




If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

{this moment}

A Friday ritual posted to capture “a simple, special, extraordinary moment…I want to pause, savor and remember.” ~SouleMama

WV and I after our first run this week. In solidarity with the people of Boston. Keep running.




If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Baseball Has Arrived!

I wanted to get a baseball post up at the beginning of the season, but that pesky master’s project and thesis kept getting in the way. So here’s my first (of many?) posts about baseball, two and a half weeks into the season.

P1050008If you know me at all, or have read the about us page, you know that I am a Braves fan. Thanks to my uncles being huge fans and Ted Turner broadcasting Braves games to wherever we happened to be living, I’ve been following them since I knew what baseball was. I finally got to see them play live at age 14 after we moved to northern Virginia and my dad surprised us with tickets to see the Braves play in Baltimore (the Expos hadn’t moved to DC yet and interleague play was still new). It was AMAZING! I still remember Andruw Jones tracking down a deep fly ball – he was positioned in right center, the ball was crushed to left center, I thought for sure it was gone. Next thing I know he’s leaping at the wall, snatching the ball out of the air to take away a home run. I knew he was fast from watching him on TV, but it really puts into perspective how much ground he had to cover when you’re sitting there watching it happen in front of you.

2011-04-21_00-14-28_337Thirteen years later, I still am giddy with excitement whenever I get to go to the ballpark to see the Braves play. I was lucky that a couple of years ago their west coast road trip aligned with a business trip I took that put me just north of Los Angeles. My boss, knowing how much of a Braves fan I am, let me go early one afternoon so I could make the drive south to go see them play. It was awesome. I even got a signed ball from Eddie Perez, as I was the only one in Braves gear surrounded by a sea of Dodger blue (just days after the incident with the SF fan…). I’ve seen them a few times in Atlanta, and since we only live about three hours from DC, I try to make the drive at least once a season to see them play the Nats.

This past weekend was one of those times to make the drive. I looked at the schedule as soon as it was made public, saw that April 12, 13, 14 was the only weekend series for the Braves in DC, looked at my work load to finish my MS degree, and made a plan. I’ll defend my thesis on the 12th and then drive up to see them play that weekend as a celebration with my wife and baby.

P1010830Now, this is not the first time WV has been to a game. He was 4 weeks old, and I somehow convinced L that we should drive up to DC, sit in the front row, and see the Braves because I hadn’t seen them play live yet in 2012. It rained like crazy, the 3 hour drive took us almost 5, and the game was delayed because of the weather (so we didn’t miss the beginning even though it took forever to get there). It was tied after 9 innings, but it was late because of the delay, and we still had to drive back home so I could work the next morning, so we left and listened to the Braves lose in 13 innings on the way home. We tried to go see a game with my brother and his gf back in June while WV was still on the inside, but the skies opened up and let loose a storm of biblical epic-ness and we had to settle for a nice dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. And I quickly lost the battle of trying to convince L that we should go to the game on her due date, saying she could just deliver at the stadium and we’d be all over Sports Center. Alas…

So I defended my thesis on Friday the 12th, provided musical entertainment for a zombie obstacle challenge with my band Key’d Up on Saturday the 13th, then we made the drive to go stay with my parents for the night and go to the game on Sunday. My parents wanted to come as well, so we had a full car (dad’s SUV) driving into DC with L, WV, me, my mom, my dad (W3), my brother, and his gf.

Paul Maholm vs. Gio Gonzalez. The defending NL East champions (and the favorite not only to repeat as division winners, but to win the WS) against the “good but not as good” challengers, who were riding an 8 game win streak and trying to sweep the Nats on the road. This was going to be a great pitching battle.

P1050015Boy was I wrong. BJ Upton drove a double off the left field wall on the first pitch of the game. He scored on a Gattis double, who then scored with Justin Upton on a Chris Johnson single, and Paul Maholm was staked to a 3-0 lead before he even faced the first Nats batter. I don’t know what it is, but the Braves seem to be able to absolutely destroy top tier pitchers (Gio Gonzalez, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, etc.) while struggling against mediocre guys or AAA call ups (at least that was the case last year). And destroy Gio they did. El Oso Blanco drove in another run. Chris Johnson drove in two while subbing for the injured Freddie Freeman. Justin Upton continued his power barrage with a monster HR to right center. Andrelton Simmons got into the action as well depositing a 3-run jack into the Braves bullpen. All the Braves fans in the ballpark (and there were plenty) were chopping and chanting. It was as if the game was being played in Atlanta. By the end of three innings, the braves had put up 7 runs against Gio. Maholm was just having fun after that, dropping 58 mph curveballs after backing hitters off the plate with 90+ mph fastballs. It was like he was throwing wiffle balls in the backyard. He even got into the offensive action by singling and scoring on Jason Heyward’s double in the 6th. Final score: Braves 9, Nationals 0. Total attendance: 39,389. After the 7th inning the attendance was down to about 20,000, most of them Braves fans.

It was a great game to attend, watching them sweep the highly touted Nats on the road, winning their 9th in a row, and really punishing the great pitching staff that is supposedly better than theirs. As of this morning, the Braves lead the majors with a 1.83 ERA, whereas the Nats are #20 with 4.29 (even with today’s loss the Braves ERA improved to 1.77). In the 2 games that the Braves have lost, they have been outscored 3-0. In the 6 games that the Nationals have lost, they have been outscored 47-10. I could pull out more stats such as overall run differentials, inherited runners scored, home run differentials, etc. but I think that would be overkill and each point I make would likely be countered by some off the wall statistic from an opposing fan. Suffice it to say that the Braves are pitching well, with or without their offense.

P1050006Now, this isn’t a post to bash the Nats. They’re a great team and will win a ton of games (against the Marlins and Mets), and really make things interesting as the season progresses and they battle the Braves and Phillies for the division title. The season is still young (not even 10% complete), and I’m sure the Braves will falter here and there, but for now I am enjoying the fact that they are 12-2 and continue to hit the cover off the ball while the pitching stays stingy (tough 1-0 loss this afternoon, the KC pitchers should buy Doug Eddings a steak dinner for his generous strike calls). It was great to see the Braves play, great to see them win, and great to go spend some time with my parents and give them some WV time as well. The next game we will catch live will be against the Mets while we’re visiting L’s parents.

2013-04-03_18-59-12_946I do have some bad news to report… The beer glass you see in this image was my lucky Braves beer glass. I set it down wrong on a coaster the other night, and it fell over, dumping a freshly poured honey ale all over the table and breaking into a bunch of pieces. R.I.P lucky glass, may you continue to give the Braves good luck in spirit.

So here’s to the 2013 Braves! My tagline since opening day: Home runs and home brews! Go ahead, DC fans (or Braves haters), and tell me how it’s a long season and anything can happen. Go ahead and rub it in that the Nats won the NL East last year and the Braves lost in the one game Wild Card playoff. Go ahead and remind me that the Braves only got one WS championship during the 14-year run of consecutive division titles (which is infinitely more WS championships that the Nationals franchise won during that same period). Go ahead and say “we’ll see how much this sweep matters in October…” and other things that mean absolutely nothing but make you feel better as a Nats fan looking up and seeing the Braves atop the standings early in the season. We will see what happens come October. Maybe the Braves will continue to be hot, maybe they’ll trail off and the Nats will catch/surpass them. Maybe the Marlins will get lucky (not likely). The past is the past, this is 2013. Both teams made improvements and it will be exciting to watch them both throughout the season. GO BRAVES!

Is anyone else as excited as I am that the season is here and the Braves are kicking butt?

{this moment}

A Friday ritual posted to capture “a simple, special, extraordinary moment…I want to pause, savor and remember.” ~SouleMama

Usually I post a photo unaccompanied by words, but today I choose to pair it with a heartfelt exaltation: Today W defends his MS thesis in applied physics and computer science. This photo represents how proud me and WV are of him – he’s been tirelessly working full time and finishing up his MS, all while being the most caring, wonderful, dream-big partner and coolest dad this side o’ the universe.





If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Cyber Spring Cleaning

I spend more time on my computer than I like to admit – some significant portion of which includes deleting junk email. Just sifting through it in the morning is a daunting and unwelcome task. I worry about missing something of actual value. Also, I kid myself that I will heed the consumer-craving chants and save my butt boucoup bucks on stuff I actually don’t want or need – so I don’t delete them in hopes that they will “come in handy” later. But, in actuality, I don’t feel like buying ceramic cookware, bridesmaid dresses, comedy club tickets, what-have-you today or really ever, and certainly not on a regular basis! This barrage of spam (all my fault, I signed up at one point or another) clogs my brain and slows me down. It’s time to purge. So, I unsubscribed from over 30 websites that send me a frequent email (some twice daily, those succubuses!). Here’s a running (somewhat embarrassing) list of those who got cut, just to keep it real and to also check back in case I get a rogue email from one of them:

Refinery 29
Starr Hill Presents
Farm Fresh
All You
Rent the Runway
Toys ‘R Us
Babys ‘R Us
Healthy Touch
Mighty Nest
CMP Publications
Mother Earth News Online
Loverly – Like I really need to be tempted by BHLDN more…
Seraphine – No longer preggo, gotta go.
Beyond the Rack – Have already unsubscribed several times…grr
Organic Gardening – Didn’t sign up for these, although it sounds cool.
Swiftpage E/Pumpone – Seriously, no idea what this even was, glad it’s gone.
Outer Banks Sporting Events – Been getting theses since my first marathon!
Pinterest – I’m not that into pinteresting.
WHRO – I don’t need news about the news.
Prevention – What the heck is this?
Antiques Roadshow – I signed up to win tickets, not a mess o’ emails.
World’s Best Cat Litter – A little embarrassed about this one.
Project Feederwatch – Sorry birdies.
Food Lion – The worst email offender.
Zulily – Tied with the worst email offender.

It’s amazing the shameless groveling and lengths these companies will go to to orchistrate your unsucessful unsubscribing. Tricky pre-checked off buttons that say “It’s not too late to change you’re mind” and “On second thought, include me in promotional emails” that look like you’re doing something other than unsubscribing abound. Some show you the same screen twice, always with the options you don’t want checked…I’m assuming because they know how “double click” happy we all are…if you double click “save” you’ll be right back where you started…getting their emails. And almost all had the perennial “please click here to continue shopping.” I wasn’t shopping, thanks. No second thoughts and careless double-clicks here. Sayonara.

The ones I couldn’t bring myself to completely unsubscribe from because I do actually use their offers sometimes for sales, inspiration, and such (petfood, World Market, Groupon), I created a filter called “Almost Junk” in which they will be shunted. Then, if I have a mind to go buy something at Michael’s or order one hundred pounds of dogfood, I’ll check that folder for the most recent deals. I’m feeling cyber-lighter already!

{this moment}

“A Friday ritual.  A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.”  ~SouleMama




If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.
Have a wonderful weekend!

March: Less Lion, More Lamb

Ok, this metaphor is inherently flawed. Lions are cool (I wore a tutu on my head for some months as a child because I was a male lion), endangered, beautiful big kitties. W likes to hold WV up and pretend he’s Simba. Lambs (and their adult counterparts SHEEEP!), on the other hand (as opposed to cows, and definitely lions), wreak havoc on the root structure of grasses by cropping them too close and killing them. This has lead to anthropogenically intensified erosion in New Zealand (for example), causing the rivers there to be some of the most sediment laden in the world (intrinsic to the topic of my Ph.D. dissertation). However, for the purposes of maintaining the Marchified metaphor, I shall equate lions with destruction and lambs with tender do-gooding. We know the truth.

March was all about reevaluating our home life and reducing or removing certain things from it that are wasteful, not economical, or generally make us cranky. I wanted to make some changes that would be easy for us, as W is pretty much ensconced in his office either working or finishing his thesis and doesn’t have much time to get down and dirty with other creative projects and family extracurriculars. So, my three lambs:

1. We went paper-towel-less. I’ll pause here, while you get in a good eye roll.

Now I’ll brag about how AWESOME being free of paper towels has been (and we’re not going back). For starters, I hated using paper towels. And running out of them. So wasteful of trees and money. I always felt bad when reaching for one to dry my hands (but I still did it, even though we have plenty of kitchen hand towels) – and ended up with a soggy lump of wet-but-clean paper towels waiting to be used for a real mess later. Good for cleaning up WV’s squash eyebrows, true.

cloth paper towelQuestion: Do you know what cloth “paper” towels clean up better? Answer: Everything! From the mess at lunch on the chopping block to WV’s chin to the wet rails of the sink after washing dishes. They are more absorbent (seen here drying washed spinach), they are reusable, they are better for the earth and our family! C’mon, I’ve got to believe you have a few towels you can cut up from bygone room mates and relationships. Join me in cutting them up and wiping up messes! I put them in a small muslin bag and hung it on our paper towel rack. I took our small bedroom trash bin, since we never use it, and put it behind the kitchen trash, and that’s what I’ve been throwing the used towels into for laundering as a bunch. They don’t look terribly pretty, I’ll give ya that, but then again, neither does an expanse of land devoid of trees – and is a paper towel’s role supposed to be aesthetics? My mom totally agreed it was a good idea, when she visited and pointed out that, in the same vein, she uses cloth dish rags around the kitchen. It’s always good when your mom approves. Gave me a much needed boost of confidence.

2. Shoes are banished from the inside of the house.

details (2)If you know me, you know I LOVE shoes. Once in a while, I’ll put on my wedding shoes (at right, *le sigh*) and think to myself, gah, how did I wear these and when can I again?!? I wish there were things I could wear nice shoes to more often. I get giddy just thinking about the insanely expensive shoe parade that is Sex and the City (see #3; a girl has to have a vice, ya know). These days I rotate between my all purpose crunchy mama Toms, all purpose weary cowgirl boots and treading-on-air Mizuno running shoes that I’m breaking in and trying to keep clean (a much-needed gift from my MIL).

But, finally, after a long-standing “let’s take our shoes off once we come inside” fairly unenforced policy, we’ve relegated our everyday shoes to the vestibule. We’d tracked in enough grime and crud…I was tired of constant sweeping up, and the mess o’ shoes by the front door would slowly migrate to the kitchen and living room (cray-cray, I know, but W has way more shoes than I do). More importantly, if you think about it (I did. A lot.) where have the soles of your shoes been?!? They keep your feet from touching the floor of a public restroom (and any other non-home floors); but if you wear them inside and then take them off, you are essentially spreading the germs of the public restroom to your feet…then you get in bed…ok, gross. I’m done with shoes in the house. Socks, slippers and bare feet are welcome, but we are adopting the cultural traditions of Japan, and many other countries, when it comes to shoes. Perhaps I’ll chance upon a nice wire rack to organize them. Further impetus is that WV is about to crawl. The floors need to be clean. Period.

3. “Hey wait, I can use that!” and “Hey wait, I can use that!”

I got to using more food and household items in non-traditional ways I hadn’t before.
These included (you decide if the emphasis is on “use” or “that”):

→ Saving the bones from a roast chicken to make yummy bone broth, thereby eeking a lot more value out of that expensive organic bird. This “lamb” is more like the proverbial Native American buffalo.
→ Cleaning the bathroom with baking soda and vinegar, thereby avoiding harsh chemicals and all that is intrinsic with their use.
→ Finding yummy recipes to use the pulp leftover from our juicing endeavors. That just makes sense. Since I’m prone to buying multiple 5-lb bags of carrots: Carrot Banana Bunt Cake with Cream Cheese Icing.

I’ve enjoyed browsing through the Year of Living Less blog, even though it is defunct. It gets me thinking. We all have our limits, though – while I admire purposeful simplifications I won’t dread out my hair to live without a comb (there was a time in high school I had wanted to…ah well, opportunity missed) or reduce our towel stockpile to the number of people in the house! But I’m really happy about our March’s worth of intentional living. I’m committed to observing my household with a keen eye for what can be replaced with less expensive, safer, and/or more sustainable options (not surprising, how it’s almost always all three), and will keep in mind what I change and find for further posts. I’m taking cues from family, friends, and frustrations. Another thing I’m going to give up is straws. Yes, I love straws, but W pointed out that they are wasteful pieces of plastic and, well, he’s right. Maybe I can get a glass straw? That sounds like a bad idea.

So tell me, what have you changed, repurposed or cooked in your household lately? What are your March “lambs?” Looking forward to hearing and getting some good ideas from ya’ll…

PS: W defends his MS thesis in early April and will be back to blogging thereafter. Send him happy math thoughts!!!