No more muffins and pie.

Just a girl and her trucks

Just a girl and her trucks

I haven’t had much time for truck mechanics lately….my son was visiting for a few weeks, and he doesn’t think much about my adventures trying to fix Prince Hopalong.

“When are you gonna junk that thing?” he says.

Somehow, just one guy saying one thing about my stupid attempts to fix trucks can really take the wind out of my sails. Even if it’s my son. I know he doesn’t mean to discourage me- he’s just trying to help me be practical. To act like a mom. An adult. He’s right. I shouldn’t fall in love with crazy outlaw trucks.

Plus, it’s hard to have time to hang on to seemingly unsolvable mechanical problems, due to the arrival of Jason. I got a new boyfriend, who cooks like a professional, so I come in and eat dinner at night. He also likes spending time with me, and being together. So I am being lured into enjoying life, instead of being out in the shop working on trucks all hours and living on Ezekiel bread toast. I am being invited to move on into the world of living, breathing human beings who spend time together snuggled up on the couch watching movies. He’s rather indulgent of my need to fix old broken trucks, but, I smell like motor oil and diesel, not roses and lavender. Oh, and horse manure. And I always track in hay.

AND, to add to my lack of time to work on my trucks, I got laid off from my job, so I’m teaching a lot of Pilates and doing all this freelance marketing stuff on my computer, trying to hold it down. I’m having to hustle. A lot.

As a result, Prince Hopalong has been languishing- the windshield still not fixed, because I can’t get him to the glass place to get the windshield replaced. It’s a sorry excuse, I know. Which is why I was lying in bed with a sleeping Jason Saturday morning, and somehow found my resolve to leap up and crusade forward, back into my world of grease and busted knuckles. I just can’t give up. I can’t. I have to get Prince Hopalong to the glass place so he can get a new windshield.

See, I had comprehensive insurance when Lawrence hit the turkey, thereby shattering the windshield. WHY would I have comprehensive insurance on a 1987 F-250 that you have to carry a fire extinguisher around in because at any moment, it might burst into flames? Well, THAT’S why, homey. I was always ready for Hopalong to burst into flames. I figured it was worth the extra 10 a month to maybe get 500-1000 back for another truck.

So, small miracle, when Lawrence called me in November to inform me that he’d hit a turkey, the windshield of Prince Hopalong was shattered, and he and was now bolting for California, the windshield was covered. So, there I was, blasting through New York State on my way to Maine in a state of incomprehensible pissed off female disbelief at the fact that my boyfriend was splitting, and the only productive way to deal with the situation was to call Geico. Five minutes can save you….ummm….what do they say on that ad?

But now here we are, it’s now almost March. It’s been four months. The windshield place keeps calling. But I can’t get a new windshield in Prince Hopalong if I can’t get him started to get to the glass place.

And now here I am, sitting in Lawrence’s cabin. He’s back from California. He wanted to talk. He wanted his elk antler back. He was blowing up my phone- that is, until he turned off the service, ostensibly to save money. So I turned up at the cabin. To try to make peace. To try to get him to stop flipping out at me. To try to move on.

“WHY didn’t you just charge up the batteries, spray some ether in the air filter, and start up with the PLIERS,” he is now fuming, in between bites. He’s eating one of the carrot muffins I brought him. I know if I just wait it out, he will calm down. He loves my muffins and cookies. And pies.

Before I left for Maine, I baked him a few pumpkin pies and put them in the freezer. He was so happy. He said, “I’m gonna stay right here and eat one slice of pie a day. I’ll be right here, eating this pie.” And then he goes to California. And I don’t hear from him for two months.

“So why did you just suddenly go to California, and I don’t even hear from you for two months, you don’t even call to see how I am?”

“You knew where I was, you could have called,” he snaps.

Well, I did call. That’s the thing.

This is the second time he’s gone to California like this. The first time, I figured it was curtains for us, but, then he calls me and worms his way back into my heart. Both times, he was supposed to be getting his F-350 flatbed, but, both times, it didn’t work out. I don’t know why, it’s tied up in probate or something, some inheritance deal. So what does he do, he drives back from California in a Volvo. He lives on top of a mountain, when not living with someone, preferably a lady, with hot running water. A Volvo is not really the vehicle for his location. Perhaps this is a somewhat uncharitable comment, but, I am working through my issues currently with this man and there are times when I would love to simply smack him across the chops. This is the second time we’ve been to this movie together. Only this time, he didn’t get to come back to my house. This time, I am not going to be the lady with the nice hot shower. When I got back from Maine and retraced his footsteps out the door,  I had to wonder what the big hurry was. He didn’t put away his electric razor. Some men aren’t much good at covering their tracks. He never shaved up nice for me. He also left the turkey he hit in my freezer. And it’s still there. I don’t think he even bothered to pluck or gut it.

“GOD this is sooooo good,” he murmurs, taking another bite of carrot muffin, forgetting his anger at me. He is ecstatic. He loves my gluten-free cooking. He loves my muffins. He loves kale. He loves quinoa. He wanted to talk. He kept calling and calling me- calling me and leaving messages that he wanted to go to a mediator. A third party. That we had to talk. Or maybe just one on one. If I didn’t want to go to a mediator. We could just talk.

So I turned up at the cabin, and knocked on the door. He knew I’d turn up. He knew I would bring him fresh baked goods, still warm. He knew I would bring the elk antler to him.

But he’s not getting the truck. He is not getting Prince Hopalong.

He’s standing there in the doorway holding a drill, looking at me holding out a brown paper bag full of nice warm carrot muffins.

“I read all your texts,” he says. “I can’t stand you sending me all those texts.”

“Oh, I was texting YOU? You were calling me all the time and texting me in the middle of the grocery store and shit. Anyway, I made you some muffins.” I hold them out, steeling myself for what he’s about to say to me. But then he doesn’t say it. He changes his tone suddenly.

“I was about to put some bindings on a snowboard,” he says. “Hiiiiiii, what’s up?”

“Carrot muffins. Like I said.”

“Well, put them down so I can say hi to you first. You want me to say hi to you? You want a hug? Because I’m only giving you a hug if you want one.”

And now here we are, hours later, many angry words later, many moments of reprise later, let go, take it back, let go, take it back, trying to get to the part where we forgive each other, but, we are still arguing about Prince Hopalong.

“I want to make it RIGHT,” I try to explain. “I’m sick of starting up the truck with a pair of PLIERS. I watched a tutorial. I’ve got the steering column in pieces, and I’m working on replacing the actuator rod.”

“It ran when I parked it, there’s nothing wrong with that truck. You didn’t have to fix anything. It’s just the cold, it would have started if you had just charged the batteries and primed it. There’s probably a can of starter fluid right in the truck,” he snipes.

He stuffs some twigs in the pot belly stove, and looks around. “You got a lighter or any matches?”

“Nope,” I say. “You don’t have any matches?”

“Oh, I can get it started,” he says. I don’t really see how he did, or where the matches came from, but, the fire springs into life. He squats there and pokes at the fire a little. “So, you don’t want me to sell the antler, huh?”

Here it comes, he wants something. He’s going to try to get me to give him something so he doesn’t sell the antler. He stands up and walks over to the window, munching another muffin.

“These would be so good heated up, with a little coconut oil,” he says.

I miss the fact that Lawrence loves my hippie organic food. He knows I miss him eating my gluten-free pizza. He misses me taste-testing his Kombu-cafe, which is what he calls his home-brewed combination Kombucha-coffee drink. He’s going to work this hard. I square my shoulders. He’s not getting my truck. He’s not coming back to my cabin so he can take hot showers and sleep in my recliner. It’s not happening. He’s about to try to work this situation to his advantage. I can’t blame him- he’s really in survival mode right now, in his little cabin. He’s already told me he doesn’t have any toilet paper. And I’ve already told him I’m fine using leaves.

He may be in survival mode, but, he’s surviving. And pretty nicely, too. The cabin is warm, and he’s got a stack of wood he’s chopped. He’s got some food, and he’s busy as always with his projects. So, really? Secretly, I am proud of him for not just going off and finding some other chick to crash on. Even if he did ask me for my best friend’s number, once she’s single.

“You can’t have Prince Hopalong,” I say. “I have a relationship with that truck.”

“I can get that truck going,” he says. “I’ve always been able to get that truck going. I could get it going, and then bring you hay. I can get you whatever you want in that truck.”

So many times, we would be somewhere in the middle of the night, me handing him tools, both of us perched up in the engine bay. Or maybe we would have to roll Hopalong through a pasture to bump start, so we could go get water. Or we’d have a load of water and the truck wouldn’t start, so we’d have to crack the air filter, or he’d have to crack open an injector. That’s how we messed up the fuel lines. That’s why they leak now.

“I had to basically go over and jack that truck out of Petra’s yard the last time you went to California,” I say. “I have been through hell with that truck. I am not letting you have the truck.”

That was the chick before me he was crashing on. He’s got this way of crashing on chicks. Or at least, he did. Maybe he’s reformed now, or maybe he’s just in between things.  I thought I was going to be the relationship. The chick before me was shit talking us all over Facebook and calling the sheriff anytime he went over there to try to get his truck. So I just went over there one day when she wasn’t there and towed it.

Yeah, I thought I was gonna be the relationship. Not sure what planet I was living on. But how long am I going to hang on to this? He did try. He really did. One of the texts he sent me- in the grocery store, the one that came in and made me forget the dog food-

He said, “I gave it my best try. I gave it the best run I had.”

It’s not easy for some guys. They don’t want responsibility. They can’t deal with the pressure. They are like tomcats. They just want food. A little female company now and again. I’ve got to forgive if I’m going to be happy and move on. Somehow. But he can’t have the truck.

“You’re lucky you even got that truck out of Petra’s,” he says.

“She wasn’t gonna fuck with me,” I say.

I would love to be a sweet, gentle, wonderful woman, but, I am not.

“You can’t have the truck,” I say, and glare at his back.

I can feel him smiling, and he shakes his head. He turns around and takes a breath. He doesn’t have a truck right now. For some inexplicable reason, the dude returned to the outback of Colorado from the suburbs of California in a late model Volvo that he has to chain up to get out of Aspen Six. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a late model yuppie Volvo with chains on the tires. It really adds to the vibe. Driving down out of Aspen Six is like driving out of Tierra del Fuego. It’s like the commercials for Jeeps. Only it’s really where people live. There’s a corner up there named after me, where I ran Chubby the Honda off the road and would have gone down in a canyon if not for a snowbank blocking me. Lawrence had to come down the next morning and pick my Honda up and put it back on the road. We were having an argument the whole time about love, walking down to the Honda from his cabin. Why didn’t he ever say he loved me.

“Isn’t this love, me walking down to your Honda with you to help you get it out of the snowbank?” he’d said.

Women of the Diesel Diva blog, if you are out there, take note.

But now here we are, all this time later, and I see him ready to let go. He is finally ready to let go of me. Yes, he had to turn off his phone service- oh, because he couldn’t afford it- but, he’s going to let go. He is seeing that I am not going to save his ass. And on my end, I am finally ready to realize that he does care about me, and maybe he even loves me, despite his always trying to figure out how to get me to save his ass or at least feed him. I may very well have gotten about the best he had to give, and I’d better just be happy I was the girl who got it.

“Okay, it’s your truck. You’re owning it,” he says. “Okay. You’re owning your shit. You came here to the cabin, you made amends, and you’re fixing shit. So do it. So fix it. Own it up. Get it rolling. It got me from California to here. It did its job. It’s yours now.”

And that was that. I guess we are now divorced, as much as hippies in Colorado ever get divorced. I didn’t even know we were married. But, no one ever gets married anymore, right? They just get divorced.

So here I am, days later, trying to put my life back together after all that. I guess putting my life together means taking a truck apart. Our truck. But, days later, I still can’t get it started. Days later, I’m still fighting with the actuator rod in the steering column. Yesterday, when I went out to work on it, I discovered that my white truck had a flat tire. So I had to deal with that, first. The formerly sleeping Jason suddenly appeared, helped me with the flat, and then helped me get the steering wheel pulled, since he knew how to do that. But, I can’t get the turn signal assembly out. It doesn’t flop out like in the tutorial, i can’t get the housing open, I can’t get at the actuator rod to get it out. It took three trips to Tractor Supply yesterday to get all the tools I needed, I had to spray the nut holding the steering wheel on with PB Blaster, and then put my feet against the steering wheel and use my arms to get the nut loose.

So I’m about to start again. I’m about to take as long as it takes to get all this apart, get it cleaned up, and get it put back together again. Small pieces are falling out, and I’m having a hard time remembering where they go. But with patience, I will somehow remember.

IMG_1759And this is me, in the You Tube video below, getting the nut off the steering wheel in the first place. I think that PB Blaster should sponsor me. Jason keeps saying I smell like a mechanic and maybe I should try to get some PB Blaster on the truck and not all over me…

I think Jason would rather that I occasionally take a bath and put on a nice dress.

But I’m a determined woman. I may be completely defeated, the truck is still not fixed, but I am NOT going to make any more pies or muffins. Even if it means my hands are in a perpetual state of filth.

So I guess it’s time to get back to it. It’s almost warm enough in the Colorado desert to get outside and start some truck repair. Just me and a 1987 6.9 Liter Diesel F-250. I guess I’m just trying to get it done somehow. Just trying to get it done. And I guess that once I get this truck running, I can drive down to the river and have a good cry and throw some rocks and yell a few bad words and get on with my life.


Posted in The Diesel Diva | Leave a comment

Holy Smokes, I changed my own oil!

Wow, I changed my own oil, and I can’t believe how easy it is! I did it! Whoo hoo!

The Diesel Diva, gettin' it done!

The Diesel Diva, gettin’ it done!

…Well, it’s not like I have NEVER changed oil before, but, well, maybe I always had my boyfriend helping me? And once I did change a starter motor in my housemate’s Toyota, back in my college days, and YEAH I did have a 1963 International Harvester pickup when I was a young thing… and you had to clean out the fuel lines with a #2 knitting needle from time to time since I was too poor to keep gas in her and the gunk from the bottom of the tank would get in there….until some boyfriend or other installed an inline fuel filter, after giving up on trying to get me to keep the tank full….

But now I have no boyfriends hanging around. Well, I do, sort of, but, he’s not hanging around in the sort of way where he’s in my shop fixing things in an effective and timely manner. I guess you might call this a trial basis relationship. In other words, he’s a sensible man. A young buck might go rushing in to that workshop of mine, thinking about all the muscle cars he’s going to rebuild, and all the pies I’m going to cook. This guy realizes that if he sets foot in that shop, he’s going to have to go rock shopping.

Disclaimer: he did shovel the snow off my roof. So I’m kinda watching the situation to see how it turns out.

Additional disclaimer: I don’t need a fancy rock. One out of the San Juan River will work just fine.

Addendum: Lady mechanics, when your potential man starts talking about “keeping this in the moment”, start looking for another man.

(Sorry feminists, it’s just the reality of realizing how this thing really works.)

And by the way? Would you like to see an example of one of the two varieties of perfect text message conversations between a man and a woman?


Anatomy of a Perfect Male-Female Text Message Conversation. Name removed to protect the not-so-innocent.

I won’t show you an example of the second type of perfect text message conversation between a man and a woman.

Okay, back to the fun part, before I get everyone mad at me for being so entirely realistic about the male/female situation.

The first thing I had to do was make a list, so that I could assemble the needed materials.


This wasn’t just an oil change, as you can see by the list. I had a comprehensive problem on my hands: First of all, Prince Hopalong, the 1987 F-250 diesel truck, still won’t start.

The ignition just kind of stopped working last summer. So I Googled “How do you fix a broken ignition switch in a 1987 F-250 Diesel” and got this You Tube video:

Turns out there’s this actuator rod in there that broke, which is endemic on tilt steering Fords of a certain era, but, no worries, you can start up with a pair of pliers. You just take the housing off the top of the steering column and push a rod forward to start, pull it back to stop.

Thanks to my buddy above, the former boyfriend (You know, the one who ran into a turkey when driving Prince Hopalong and lunched the windshield) had been driving around for months using a pair of pliers to stop and start.

But now that’s not even working, because, I believe, the batteries are dead, since Hopalong has now been sitting in the cold for three months, right where the former boyfriend parked him.

So: a comprehensive plan of attack includes procuring a battery charger. Perhaps once the batteries are recharged, the pliers method of starting will work and I can finally get the windshield replaced.

The former former boyfriend also suggested I get some PB Blaster, since part of this three-pronged campaign is going to involve draining the water out of the water/fuel separator unit in Moby. There is a drain plug, and according to everything I have read online, it’s going to be corroded and a bitch to get out. I’ve ordered a new drain plug with a nifty little handle, and two fuel filters- one for the top of the engine line, and one for the separator under the truck itself. I’m not exactly looking forward to trying to figure out WHERE this separator unit is located- it’s called the HFCM, or Horizontal Fuel Something or other. Thing. Like. Unit. Supposedly, it’s under the truck between the driver’s side and passenger side floor. So the former former says, soak the plug in PB Blaster for a few days.

PB Blaster- I have some pretty major biceps from my life as a dancer, but, this is going to be ridiculous.

He also suggested I get the equivalent of HEET for diesel engines, to see if that would take care of the water in the fuel tank for the time being.

So the shopping list for today includes:

One 36 mm socket
One 19 mm socket
Ratchet drive for above

Battery Charger
15 quarts oil for Moby
Motorcraft FL-2016 oil filter for Moby
Drain pan for oil
latex gloves
Bar of super dark chocolate

When it came time to get myself a drain pan at Wal-Mart, I noticed this groovy accessory (okay, so I’m a chick)- no fuss, no muss! Oil drains into the pan through the hole, you then screw on a cap, and you have a convenient carrying case to bring your oil to the transfer station for recycling! Love it!

Can I get some sponsorship here?

The UBER oil pan

The UBER oil pan











Oil Change Recipe, By Lizzie

The recipe for changing oil, in Lizzie-Language

So, having assembled all my materials, I decamped back to the Lower Blanco and my workshop, and after throwing some hay to the horses, feeding the dogs, and stuffing a few pieces of pineapple into me (It’s on sale at City Market right now for 89 cents a pineapple if you have a City Market card!!!!) Out into the cold tundra I went again, hopefully not to get Moby stuck on that annoying cement apron in front of the workshop- ice forms on it, and it turns into a skating rink. You have to really go for it to get into the shop, and then just stay in your tracks on the way back out.

Hopalong on his charger, and Moby ready to pull into the workshop

Hopalong on his charger, and Moby ready to pull into the workshop

It really wasn’t that big a deal to change the oil! I just Googled “How do I change the oil in an F-250 6.0 L Diesel” and followed the instructions that I had written down from the You Tube video that I watched as a result of my internet scholarship. The biggest problem was getting the sockets disconnected from the plastic things that Sears used to hang them on the shelves. I finally had to punch them out with a screw driver. And I discovered that my oil fill cap was broken, and I couldn’t get it off, so, I decided to pour the oil in through the filter opening, which I hope isn’t such a big deal.

So for all you ladies out there, here’s the recipe for changing the oil in a 2003 6.0 liter F-250 Superduty Diesel:

The ingredients:

15 quarts oil. *
1 oil filter: Motorcraft FL 2016 or equivalent
19 mm socket
36 mm socket
ratchet driver for sockets
flathead screwdriver
oil pan large enough to hold 15 quarts oil
latex gloves
coveralls or equivalent
*PLEASE NOTE: There are a variety of opinions on which oil to use. In my opinion, the best oil is CLEAN OIL, however, you will want to ensure that your oil is going to start in the climate in which you live. Oils come in a variety of very confusing numbers, rather than names. I’m sorry, but this is just how men are. They seem to think it makes a lot more sense to call things F-250, or 10W-40. Perhaps the mystery of secret code names adds to the importance of the mission. To me, it would have made a lot more sense to name the oil “Below Zero Oil” or “If you live in Florida, get this one.”

Whatever. You guys know I love you.

So basically, if your oil rating starts with 10, you are good down to about zero degrees. A rating of 5 would have been better for me, since I live in SW Colorado, and it gets frigging COLD here! Turning over a big diesel engine full of gooey diesel oil is not good for the engine, and I’m not always near a source of electricity to plug in! However, I couldn’t find any 5W-40, so, I went with Motorcraft 10W-30. So be it.

To Bake:

Climb under the truck with your Uber Oil Pan and your 1/2 inch drive, equipped with your 19mm socket. Remember- lefty/loosey righty/tighty. Helpful tip: set up the ratchet to work the right way when you aren’t upside down under the truck. There’s a little lever on it you can switch so that it turns either left or right.

19 mm socket and drive, with flathead screwdriver.

19 mm socket and drive, with flathead screwdriver.

There are two possible places that might be where you drain the oil. This is scary. Do not fear. The 19 mm socket won’t fit on the wrong one, as near as I can tell. The one you want is the front one- it’s RIGHT under the engine. Position your drain pan, and loosen the plug. BE VERY CAREFUL THAT THE PLUG DOES NOT FALL INTO THE PAN! AND BE CAREFUL YOU DON’T LOSE THE LITTLE WASHER UNDER THE PLUG! You can re-use that washer, but you might want to inspect it to make sure it doesn’t have dirt and corrosion. You can just clean it off if it’s not that bad.

You want the forward receptacle for whatever it is that it is. Oil. It's right under the engine.

You want the forward receptacle for whatever it is that it is. Oil. It’s right under the engine.

MAKE SURE that your drain pan will hold 15 quarts of oil! There will be a very scary moment in which it appears that the oil is going to run out of the pan! But, it will all drain in, just be patient. If you feel better having an extra pan and rags handy, bring them with you on your adventure.

Now, while the oil is draining, change out your 19 mm socket to your 36 mm socket. Climb back out and into the engine of the truck. Yes, into, we are tiny little things compared to these big beasts! Just be careful you don’t sit on the fan shroud, it can break.

The oil filter cap looks like the tin man's hat.

The oil filter cap looks like the tin man’s hat.

You are going to loosen the oil filter cap. You’ll see it- it’s right in the back and on top of engine, to the right of the oil fill cap. It’s also about the only immediate thing that a 36 mm socket fits on, and it looks like the tin man’s cap. Loosen that puppy up, and unscrew the cap. MAKE NOTE: be very careful not to get dirt and grime inside that cap! You will want some clean rags to wipe out the threads, too, in case they seem dirty. Before you pull out the filter, though, let it drain a bit, halfway out. There’s a lot of oil in that filter!

Once it’s drained, you can conveniently put it in the cardboard box the new filter came in. Be careful, though- there’s a rubber O-ring (Yes, just like the space shuttle, and probably about as important) in the new filter box. You’re going to need that!

The filter is on a spring in the filter well, but it will pull off. The filter cap is attached to the filter, but it too will come off when you pull. It pops out of a clip. Don’t pull too hard, but, pull hard enough to get it off. You will now see the old O-ring on the cap, and you need to carefully take your flathead screwdriver and pry that off. Mine came off with my fingers. (Wear your latex gloves!) Take the new O-ring and slide it into place where the old one was. Take a little oil and rub it around the ring just to seat it in place. Set the clean filter in a clean place. We will return to it in a minute.

Now, re-equip your drive with your 19 mm socket. Get set up for turning the socket to tighten. Climb back under the truck and put the drain plug back in the oil drain pan. MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT CROSS THREAD IT! Start it first with your fingers, and if it seems like it’s not going in correctly, take the time it takes to pull it back out and clean it. There are solutions you can use to clean screw threads- but it should be just fine to use a little clean motor oil on it if there’s some grit, and then with a clean rag make sure it’s wiped and re-lubricated. Thread it back in. You can tighten it with a torque wrench if you want, but, I have no idea how to do that, so, I just tightened it to how it was when I took it off- I didn’t really horse it down, but, I made sure it was on there. DO NOT FORGET TO PUT THE PLUG BACK IN!

Tightening back up the oil drain plug

Tightening back up the oil drain plug

Climb back out from under the truck. Change out to your 36 mm socket. Set it up to tighten. Now, get your new filter, and, with your 36 mm wrench and the filter, climb back into the engine compartment. Oh, and don’t forget the oil. Open up your oil cans, get the safety seal off them, and then put the lids back on so they don’t spill. Bring those with you, plus a long funnel! It may take a few trips.

The 36 mm socket. It's huge. Like, really huge.

The 36 mm socket. It’s huge. Like, really huge.

This is the point at which you SHOULD put the filter back into the well, but I didn’t, because I discovered that my oil fill cap was cracked, and I couldn’t get it off. I have to get a new one of those. Now what, I thought? There I was, with a truck with no oil in it, 20 miles out of town. Well, I poured the oil in through the oil filter well. I don’t know if you are supposed to do that, or not, but I did, and it seems to be okay. I figure it’s all going the same place, and so far, I have prevailed. But I do need to get a new oil fill cap.

There’s a dip stick to the right of the oil filter well. It’s HUGE. And long. And the handle will probably fall off when you pull it out. That’s okay. Just don’t get any dirt on it! Once you are about to 14 quarts, you should stop and let the oil drain down for a few minutes, and then check the level with the dip stick. You want the level to be between filled and empty- in other words, in the middle. There are a variety of technological reasons for this, I believe mainly to do with oil viscosity at differing temperatures. Maybe. I think I actually filled up just a little too full, but, I have also discovered an oil leak, so, we’re good. For now. Until I have to fix the leak.

Once you’ve got the oil level to your liking, slide the filter into the well, with cap on it. CAREFULLY thread that cap back onto the threads- again, no cross-threading! Tighten it down with the 36 mm drive- don’t horse it down, but make sure it’s in place. Again, a torque wrench and the knowledge to use it might be handy, but, ya gotta do what ya gotta do!

Wait a few minutes, then climb under the truck and MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE no oil is dripping out. I cannot stress this point enough. Why? Because I’m a space case and sometimes I forget to do stuff. Losing my engine due to my spaced out nature would not be a good thing. Running an engine without oil in it is a death sentence. Running an engine with dirty oil, or low oil, is also a death sentence.

Now, the really fun part! Close the hood, start your engine, and take a test drive!
Oh- and have some chocolate.
Don’t forget the chocolate!

Chocolate fixes everything!

Chocolate fixes everything!

Congratulations. You changed your own oil.

The cost? 15 qts oil, a filter, and your time.
Now, what was the mechanic going to charge you again?

Moby feeling very happy indeed after a little love!

Moby feeling very happy indeed after a little love!

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And now, a word about heartbreak.

I’ve never really understood why it helps me to heal, this great effort to make my entire life public- either through my music, my writing, my art, my political service, or just the way I live. But, for some reason, I need to stand on a mountain and scream at the top of my lungs when my heart is broken, and I need people to hear that wailing.

I watched a documentary once, about immigrants to this country from the Gambia. They were incredulous at the way that we Americans suffer through pain silently and alone. They described a funeral, in which people were all out in a square together, wailing and suffering together. They said the pain passes a lot faster when we have someone to witness it. They talked about what we do to our mentally ill- solitary confinement. What we do to our elderly- solitary confinement.

And, in this case, what is happening to one very small and insignificant blogger. Solitary confinement, at her desk, waiting for a few copy edits to come back so that she can send out this afternoon’s marketing emails.

Ah, the former boyfriend is back in town. He wanted his stuff out of my house. (He’s NOT getting Prince Hopalong, which seems to be implicitly understood by him at this point.) He calls and leaves a message on my phone: “I’ve been back in Aspen Springs for three days, shredding. I’d like to get my clothes, maybe if you have any food.”

This is two weeks after the message he left on my phone, to which I did not respond, saying, “Were there any Christmas presents for me?”

Maybe if I have any FOOD? I’ve not been snowboarding for three days- I’ve been working! How about spending three days getting a JOB, dude?

But, I kept my cool. I loaded up his stuff in Moby. And, after a few text message volleys and phone calls that were reasonably polite, he met me at work.

He arrived with a much older woman who looks as though she listens to a good deal of NPR news and volunteers at the animal shelter. Driving a Prius, not a truck. At first I thought she was a dude. Sorry, again, feminists. Evidently the flight to California in order to try to make good with the beautiful ex-girlfriend didn’t work exactly as planned.

It all went in a fairly orderly fashion- his new friend didn’t get out to help, but conveniently stayed on the phone the whole time. Wimp.

And the only two things that kept me from slapping him across the chops are my Giraffe Pajamas he got for me before he left, and the down sleeping bag that saved my life that he sent me to Maine with, since I was sleeping in Moby in below freezing temps with the dogs. My Giraffe PJs are the warmest things I own, and they have a hood and eyes and everything.

I’m not sure why some guys don’t know how to take care of themselves without having to find the next woman to feed them. Maybe it cuts into their snowboarding time.

But in the meantime, I have to hope that he thought slightly about keeping me warm, and this strange fascination with reviving the 6.9 Diesel F-250 that I have acquired as a result of his tenure in my life is what is healing me. He left Prince Hopalong for dead in my dooryard. Well, watch this. I’m going to rebuild that truck as good as new.

First, I have learned that yes, I should have removed the batteries before recharging. Since the two batteries are wired together to make a 24 volt system — this is what one of the helpful guys on the Ford Trucks forum says: “You will almost certainly want to disconnect the batteries at the very least before charging them. If they are connected to each other in series to create a 24 volt electrical system, you will not be able to effectively charge either of them while they are hooked to each other. By disconnecting the batteries and charging them independently of each other, your battery charger will be able to better determine when the battery is fully charged or if one or both of them are bad batteries which may be the case if they froze while they were discharged.”

So that’s job number one this evening. Secondly, I have ordered an ignition actuator rod from NAPA, as well as a steering wheel puller, for a total of about 25 bucks. I’m going to also get a solenoid relay tonight, and perhaps swap that out in the morning, after testing to see if I can bridge the relay and start, after properly charging the battery. If I can, then I know the relay is fried. I can take it back if I don’t need it. Or maybe I can wait until after my test, I just don’t want to make two trips to NAPA.

So many times he’d go roaring off up the driveway in that truck, and then the last time he flew out of my life, he did it in a civilized fashion, but, to go back to California to chase around some other woman. You know what? You fuck up our truck and then leave me for some other chick? Guess what. You don’t get the truck back. You just don’t get the truck back, and that’s how that deal works.


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The Problem. One woman. One Superduty Diesel. They want to charge me WHAT to do that?

Good morning!

Here’s a little blog post that has absolutely nothing to do with HTML email marketing, except, perhaps, that I don’t make enough money as an HTML email automation specialist and marketer to pay what the average mechanic seems to want to work on my 2003 F-250 Superduty Diesel truck.

First, the truck.

Her name is Moby. As in, the gigantic white whale.



Thar she blows!

Now, I don’t want to cast aspersions on anyone, and I sure as heck am not about to say that I can do what a trained mechanic does all day, every day, but, Moby lost power on the hill coming up 160 the other day- sure, it was 10 degrees below zero, but I panicked. Maybe, I thought, it’s because of that design fault with the 6.0 Liter engine, and the EGR valve is gunked up with soot. Here it comes, I thought. I’m going to need a whole new cooler. This is the end of my engine as I know it.

So- what is an EGR valve and cooler? Well, starting with the 6.0, Ford had to put more emissions control in place than the trusty 7.3 liter had. EGR stands for Exhaust Gas Recirculation. The EGR valve is an emissions device that controls the amount of exhaust gases that are reintroduced into the engine, essentially diluting the intake charge to reduce NOx emissions. The EGR cooler is responsible for cooling exhaust gases before they are reintroduced. It is essentially a heat exchanger, in which coolant and exhaust gases flow through. The EGR cooler is responsible for higher than ideal operating temperatures, especially under load. Both are prone to failure, the common culprit being soot buildup. When soot builds up in the EGR cooler, it can become clogged and the excessive heat can boil coolant in the exchanger. The EGR coolers have also been known to fail and leak coolant into the exhaust system (white smoke is typically noticed coming from the exhaust, which is steam). 2003 model year Power Strokes have a round EGR cooler, which is less prone to failure than the less efficient square cooler found on 2004 to 2007 model year engines. The EGR valves build with soot and cease to function. If the valve sticks in the open position, a loss of power may be experienced.

Key concept: a loss of power may be experienced.

Now, when I bought Moby, I went through as best I could and found as many faults as I could. I detected issues with an oil leak, and that two of the injectors were malfunctioning. I had a shop check the EGR valve, and supposedly, there were no issues.

But there is always that sense of dread and foreboding that one feels upon losing power at 10 degrees below zero, when one knows that, even though one’s truck supposedly has escaped the dreaded EGR cooler issue… maybe it’s coming up now.

So, I took Moby to a mechanic. And now, I am looking at a bill for 900 dollars.

I thought it was going to be in the neighborhood of 400-500 dollars.

So okay. I took the truck to the mechanics, my responsibility to pay the bill. Yes. By plugging Moby into their diagnostic machines, they determined valuable information I can use going forward. They also determined that my EGR cooler and valve are fine, but what wasn’t fine was the ICP sensor on top of injector number 8, and I was running on 7 injectors.

So what the heck is an ICP sensor? The ICP (Injection Control Pressure) Sensor is one of the most critical sensors on the 6.0L Powerstroke Engine. It senses the pressure in the high-pressure oil system and reports back to the engine computer which in turn adjusts the IPR valve position to achieve the desired pressure for a particular desired engine speed and load. Failure of the ICP sensor can cause a very wide range of driveability symptoms. If there is oil in the ICP sensor connector, it needs to be replaced. If your truck will not start, but will start if you disconnect the ICP sensor, the sensor is likely at fault.

So I just paid over 300 bucks for a new one of those. I could have got it online for 150.

I don’t want to gripe. I realize that mechanics are hard-working guys who have a shop to maintain, a payroll to make, and they are serious professionals who do a job and do it well. They are much faster than I am, and I sit in an office making HTML email. That’s my job.

I realize that I do not have the experience that they have.

But, I also do not have 900 dollars just hanging around to spend on a day at the mechanics.

And I also have a car repair workshop that came with the micro-ranch. The previous owner was a car mechanic. So there sits the shop, cavernous, empty, and, it has heat.

So it’s time to suck it up, pay that bill, and figure out how to fix my own truck.

Here’s today’s punch list:

First, I have to get Prince Hopalong running again. Who, you might ask, is Prince Hopalong?

Well, he’s a 1987 F-250 7.3 liter that was previously sort of a shared custody kind of arrangement, but, not anymore. Not anymore. My former boyfriend hit a turkey before he boogied off to California and lunched the windshield.Amazingly, I had comprehensive insurance, because the diesel lines going into the injectors began leaking fuel last summer, and I figured if the truck caught on fire and blew up, at least I would get a thousand bucks toward another truck. (I wasn’t worried about the boyfriend- he’d also broken the window in the driver’s side door, so, emergency bailout wasn’t going to be an issue.)

Since I weirdly had comprehensive insurance when he hit the turkey, I get a bonus windshield. And I come out ahead, too, since I didn’t have comprehensive for all that long. But I have to be able to GET the truck to the place where they will replace the windshield. And, the batteries in the truck are now dead, because I had to head back to Maine for a month, we got the snowstorm of the century, and I have only now just dug old Hopalong out. All that equates into a very precarious mechanical situation sitting idle for two months of winter. Never a good thing.

You also have to start Hopalong with this crazy system of pushing forward on a bar underneath the steering column housing, because there’s a little metal toggle in the ignition switch that fell apart. I learned how to do it on You Tube. Previously, we were bridging the solenoid with a metal file, but, that was a two-person operation, unless you jammed a piece of re-bar into the gas pedal to hold it down while you bridged the solenoid. Either way, it made a lot of sparks and scared the doo doo out of me, so, I got on Google to see if there was another way to get the same job done. Turns out, there was.

So, today, I have to go to Wal-Mart and get a battery charger, clean the terminals on Hopalong of corrosion, charge up the batteries, and hope that’s why he won’t start.

I need at least one running vehicle, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. After all, I live a few miles down a dirt and gravel road underneath the Great Divide. I haul in all my own water. My micro-ranch is 20 miles out of town. This is not a situation where you can just not have a truck.

And yes, when you forget to buy toilet paper, it’s a real bitch.

That's Prince Hopalong last summer, in front of my workshop

That’s Prince Hopalong last summer, in front of my workshop

Then, on to Moby.

I have to order a new drain plug and fuel filter for something called the HFCM, (“Horizontal fuel conditioning module” or HFCM for short in Ford-speak) which is a unit that separates out water from the fuel. When the mechanic did the diagnostics, a code came back that the sensor was no good. So that was going to be another 385 dollars to replace the sensor, and plus labor and taxes. But what if the sensor is FINE, it’s just that there’s 10 years of water build-up in the unit, since no one ever drained it or replaced the fuel filter in it? I will need a new drain plug, according to the guys on You Tube, because the old one is going to be corroded and hard to get out, and I will probably pooch it. And the fuel filter is self- explanatory.

However, I have just had a text from the former boyfriend before the former boyfriend, and he is advising me to soak the plug in PB Blaster for a few days, and I might be able to get it out okay. The poor man will just have to field my text message questions about car repair. I am that annoying ex-girlfriend. At least I’m not texting him wanting to talk about our relationship. And, given that he lives 2500 miles away from me, he is relatively safe. He will not be tempted to come fix the damned thing for me in return for a proverbial pie or two.

On that subject, I am trying not to swallow the bitter pill of regret over losing a boyfriend who is a very good mechanic. And, a carpenter. What was I thinking? So he didn’t love me, big deal, at least he fixed shit. Okay, maybe I decided to flee to the mountains of Colorado to find myself and become my own woman. It all sounds very lofty, doesn’t it- take the money and run, girl, get yourself your own ranch, burn all those self-help books you’ve been reading for years! (Well, actually, I sold them on E-Bay.) But then what? So now I am out a boyfriend who can fix shit. That was really intelligent. Okay, no, he didn’t love you, and he told you as much, but, he did fix a lot of shit and built you all kinds of barns and chicken coops and every once in a while got you some weird piece of junk shop jewelry that was deceptively wrapped in a ring box, so that you had to look at it under the tree for days and days trying not to hope for too much but of course thinking that maybe THIS year, it was the ring….

You stupid rhymes with witch, you should have just taken the barns and car repair and called it good. Although we all know that it’s not good enough for that fickle and awful creature called your girlfriend. It just isn’t, guys, we need the rock on our hand, too. Sorry about that.

Okay, well, maybe the take away here is that we are still friends, and I can text him my stupid questions and he will answer them. Perhaps this is a better relationship than most women have. How many women can say that their man answers their questions? He may not be my man anymore, but, he is, in fact, answering my questions. Maybe, just maybe, if more women would text their men with questions about car repair, more relationships could be saved. Maybe more of those little boxes under the tree that end up being a commemorative pin from the Iowa State Fair of 1953 would in fact contain a diamond ring.

I feel a self-help book coming on.

Well, all that aside, the former former boyfriend can stand to answer a few questions. After all, I’m to blame for his enthusiasm for diesel engines. About 15 years ago, I brought home a diesel Jetta because I was delivering newspapers for a living, and my Audi was using a LOT of gas. My plan was to convert the Jetta to waste vegetable oil. Well, that never happened, but, the former former boyfriend had to of course fix the Jetta when she broke down. But, in the process, he developed a love of diesel VWs, acquired his own Golf, and completely modded out and rebuilt the engine. Evidently there is some cat in Canada named Giles who builds the Holy Grail of all Fuel Pumps. Many weeks of my life were spent fuming in the kitchen with small children while said former former boyfriend was on his forums, communicating with Giles and his other boyfriends. Or in his workshop, cursing and swearing a blue streak and not even coming in for dinner until I went down there and dragged him up to the house. Therefore, he is just going to have to tolerate my text message questions about diesel engine repair. So far, he’s been pretty good-natured. Again, hopefully I won’t be baking cookies over this one. He’s a guy, after all. Okay, well, MAYBE. You can at least mail cookies.

So where are we? Oh yeah, first these issues with Prince Hopalong, the 1987 7.3:
Battery charger
Consider reinstating comprehensive insurance and obtaining a parachute
Get the windshield replaced, provided I can get Hopalong started.

Moby, the 2003 6.0:
Get some PB Blaster, because I don’t know what the former boyfriend did with the can I had. MIGHT be in Hopalong somewhere.
Order drain plug and fuel filter for the water in fuel module. Sounds like I’m going to need a 36 mm socket to get the filter out, which is sort of weird.
Make sure I have a half-inch socket and extensions, plus, a 6mm allen wrench.
Carb Cleaner

So that should cover things for today.
Tomorrow, provided I can get Hopalong going, I’m going to do the oil change in the 6.0, plus begin assembling information and accessories to change the rear differential oil. Stay posted!

Just a crazy cowgirl trying to get it done in the mountains of Colorado!

Just a crazy cowgirl trying to get it done in the mountains of Colorado!

Posted in The Diesel Diva | 2 Responses

The move to Colorado, December 5-10, 2014

Purple Planet Web Design has moved to Colorado, along with Northstar Horse Rescue. I have decided to stay here with my ventures, due to a job offered to me at Parelli Natural Horsemanship after the election.

meAfter much thought and deliberation, I am announcing that I will resign the office State Representative in District 93 this coming week. I am moving out-of-state for professional and personal opportunities that have developed since the election, but it is with a heavy heart that I leave Knox County and the midcoast region. It has been a privilege to serve the people of Rockland and Owls Head over the last two years. I want to thank the residents of the district for the honor of serving them in Augusta. I look forward to helping during this transition time thank everybody for allowing to me to serve our communities

I believe it was Gloria Steinem who said that the personal is political. I have often tried to compare political decisions to those made by a family, because I believe that our community is a family, and no matter whether we are deciding to spend money in an 8 million dollar or a 20 thousand dollar budget, decisions must be made based on whether we will still be able to afford groceries after we spend on a project. You cannot build beautiful brick sidewalks and renovate buildings if it means that you are going to tax your residents out of their homes to pay for it, any more than you can put in that new granite countertop and thereby put yourself in so much debt you can barely afford groceries.

Recent years have not seen Rockland, or the State of Maine, in a position to expand into new projects due to our lagging economy. It would seem, therefore, that budgets should be cut in these times, however, our current chief executive’s way to cut those budgets is to put more of the burden on the property tax payers, cutting broad-based taxes and corporate taxes. It’s a shell game, so that it can be portrayed that taxes are being cut for all, however, it’s simply a shift onto the municipalities, meaning, the property tax payers. We’ve heard quite a bit about raids on revenue sharing and shifting tax burdens.

We’ve also heard quite a bit about welfare fraud and abuse of DHHS as a reason for our state financial woes. The message being that our state is being bankrupted by unscrupulous individuals who are playing the entitlement system. It’s a compelling message in tough times, and Governor LePage has hammered it hard. There is a statewide culture of hatred toward the poor that has been brewed as a result. Rather than positive messages of hope and helping one another, the people of our state have been encouraged to report any abuse of EBT cards that may be witnessed in what has amounted to be a witch hunt. It is easy in tough times to scapegoat. To focus blame. It also seems strangely difficult for the leaders of my own party to throw down the gauntlet and expose this very careful public image manipulation for what it really is: a distraction from policies at the top level that serve to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. However, if we are a human family, and if the least among us are not fed, clothed, and shown hope and a better way of life, then the family is not whole. Yet the Maine State Legislature persists in days-long arguments over whether disadvantaged children should have access to free lunch during the summer, rather than addressing policies that could change the social inequity that keeps those children where they are.

I’ve fought very hard over the years for those who do not have a voice, because I know what it is to be voiceless. I know what it is to not have food, heat, or the money for the rent. I know what it is to have to pretend that everything is okay so that my children feel safe and secure, when meanwhile, the bank is about to foreclose on my home. I know what it is to fight like a wildcat because my will to survive and ensure that my children will be successful is stronger than anything that could ever stand in my way. And this is why I have always stood up and slugged like I do. I have suited up, shown up, gotten myself college educated, kept the house from being taken by the bank, kept children fed any way I could, and eventually, finally, had a professional job, was your state representative, had a partner who helped me pay off the house, and a family. I started a non-profit horse rescue, worked away at school and at my politics, and thought I was going to do that for the rest of my life.

Life, however, has a way of happening when you are making plans. Maybe I’m not supposed to be a real person, and definitely, the newspapers are more interested in gossip than actual investigative reporting. It turns out that I waited seventeen years for someone to decide to marry me and he decided not to. It’s just how it is. I’m old fashioned. I believe in fairy tale love. He doesn’t. Whatever. It’s not a big deal. He’s not a bad person, it’s just how it is. We are still a family. I could have decamped to my place in Owl’s Head, which I did for a while, but nothing in my life was coming together. In my professional life as a teacher, I was terrifically unhappy. Administration at the high school had taken a very different philosophical turn than that with which I feel comfortable: I did not want to work in an environment where dog searches are being conducted and people are walking around with walkie talkies. I couldn’t sleep for months after finally facing the facts about my relationship, which meant I could never make it to work on time for the battery of meetings at 6:40 am in which the various educational fads of the day were being discussed. If you are a teacher, you know what I mean. Public education just can’t seem to keep it simple, stupid. Some people may take offense at this statement, but, we have a failing education system. Someone, someday, is going to have to tear the thing apart and tell the truth about the monolithic and out of control beast that is public education in Maine. Instead of spending weeks and months “unpacking a standard from the Common Core”, we need to find out what makes students want to learn. Spark their interest and creativity. I don’t care if you’ve got a kid who only wants to read motorcycle magazines- if that student can’t read, and that’s what the student wants to read, then read the freaking motorcycle magazines because a person only learns what they want to know, a person only seeks education when their heart is set on fire.

So in short I was miserable. Banging my head against the wall. What is the purpose of my life? What am I even doing? Everywhere I go, everyone wants me to fix their problems and yet I don’t have what I need for myself on board. I hurt, I’m crying all the time, and I’ve got to put on a happy face and pretend I am strong. All the things I was supposed to be, but was I really helping anyone? Was I really solving any problems? Was I really changing the world?

It was really my son who saved my butt. I have two amazing children and three incredible step children. My son is the last at home, and he said to me, mom, you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. He and I talked and talked about doing what we need to do in life, and taking chances. He’d been out here to Colorado on a Trekkers trip (by the way, please support Trekkers, it is a lifeline of sanity and amazing experiences and growth for so many young people) and he knew I would love it here. He was brave, and he pushed at me to do what I needed to do. He grew up a little bit more than he was planning on, so that I could find my way again. He’s coming out soon to ski and I can’t wait. My children are really the work that I will leave behind in this world: the children are the solution to every problem this old world has, and that’s why we have to raise them right. I am unabashed in my conviction that my children are phenomenal, incredible people who will change the world.

My kids probably won’t like it that I am writing a somewhat personal letter to thousands of people, but, I’m me and I have to tell my own story. Sorry, guys. You know how I am.

Okay, so, why Colorado?

I came here to see Cavalia this past October, which is like Cirque du Soleil only with horses and dancers. I am a horsewoman, and a natural horsemanship student. I am also a dancer. I wanted to see what Cavalia did with aerial and trapeze and pole acrobatics and horses, with dance, and with theater. It was astoundingly moving, and Denver, where the show took place, stole my heart. Denver is one of the most civilized cities I have ever visited. There are bikes you can rent for a nominal fee, and ride from one end of the city to the other, and when you reach your destination, you can park the bike in a rack and leave it there. There is an urban stream that runs through the city called Cherry Creek, with a lovely bike path beside. Pedestrian access is superb, biking is encouraged, and you can organize your life quite happily without a car, having access to excellent cafes, organic grocery stores, and enough grit here and there to keep it real. For example, no one seems to mind that the local adult store is mingled in with the other shops, and mothers wheel their babies by on the way to yoga and it’s a free country, so if I’m not bothering you, then don’t bother me.

After a while in Denver, I took a trip down to the Four Corners region, to a town called Pagosa Springs. I wanted to visit a friend there, and I had an opportunity to talk to someone at Parelli Natural Horsemanship about some web development work, which I planned to do remotely from Maine once I returned.

The drive down to Pagosa from Denver was probably the most mind altering and healing seven hours I’ve experienced in a while. I had never seen mountains like the Rockies before, and now here I was, driving over and through them in a tiny four cylinder Hyundai that could barely chug over the passes at twenty miles per hour. I had to keep stopping to take pictures of rainbows bursting through fog bursting through brilliant blue light, the shimmering and shifting russet colors of the grasses in the valleys between the mountains, the emptiness, the starkness, the total aloneness I felt, and yet I felt happier and more connected to God than I could ever remember. I cried, I laughed, I played Justin Timberlake as loud as I could get the stereo, I danced, I ran down hills off the side of the road and flung myself in the grass beside astounded cows and horses and gazed at the mountains. My friend in Pagosa Springs kept messaging me: where ARE you? But truly, I didn’t care anymore, I was just one with the earth again. She messaged me back: take your time, dinner will be ready when you get here. I made it to Pagosa through a series of mountain passes that seemed like the Himalayas to me, and in a pouring torrent of desert rain the girl from Maine arrived.

I actually didn’t mean to stay in Pagosa Springs. I had just won the election, and my plan was to develop remote opportunites with Parelli so that when I returned to Maine, I could resign from my teaching position and get back to freelance web development work. However, when I stopped in at Parelli Natural Horsemanship ( the director of the IT department was holding her head in her hands, because one of her lead developers had just five minutes before given notice. She looked at me and said, when can you get here? She offered me a good salary in a great place where I could pursue my horsetraining dreams. But could I really do it? I thought about five horses, one dog, a house full of stuff, five acres of fencing, and I said, well, I’ll be here in a month.

I love my job- I’ve gotten a salary jump as a result, and I’m surrounded by really good people, who are supporting me in doing the work I know how to do, and putting my life together. I’m also advancing my horse training skills, and ultimately hope to become a Parelli instructor. I”m also finishing my Pilates teaching certification- I am writing this while sitting in a Starbucks in Boulder, about to go take my certification test- and I will be able to teach Pilates at our gym at Parelli. Check out our website and what we do- it’s a worldwide company, a philosophy, a way of life.

It’s very hard to be on my own. I miss my kids a lot. I miss my community. It’s a very strange experience to come to a place where no one knows you after being someone that everyone knows, but I needed the spiritual experience of stripping my ego and returning to a simple life. I know there are a lot of people who will not get why I did what I did, and many people may even be angry with me, and that’s why I am trying to write a personal letter to you: because I care very much about all of you, but ultimately, we can all lead. It doesn’t have to be me right now. Remember the lesson of geese: they take turns breaking the wind for each other. I just need to fall to the back of the flock for a while and let other people break the wind for me. Beat your wings and you will fly.

It was not simple to move five horses across country. I was very fortunate that a Parelli Four Star Instructor and her husband offered to come out and move me across country. They were very experienced haulers, and we had a successful trip. We stayed at horse hotels across the way, which was a story in and of itself. I have one horse, Satchel, a gelding who was surrendered to the rescue with one of his main issues being that he would not trailer. Well, Satchel now trailers. Hours and hours of standing in freezing temperatures, pouring rain, and Teri, the woman helping me, patiently repeating to me: Lizzie, this is not about the horse. If we have to stand here all day and go no where until you work out what is going on, then that’s what we are going to do. Well, Satchel and I are now trailering champions. It’s funny how the horses are- I have one big mare, Graduate, who loves to trailer. She’s like a labrador. She sees that trailer and she runs over and hops right on, because she loves to go places, and would contentedly munch her alfalfa mush and gaze at the passing landscape out her window all day long. Through the horses I have learned much about my own human failing and how to work through my own character deficiencies.

I did put in a bill before I left: An Act to Improve Conditions at the Maine State Prison. If you follow my Facebook wall, you will read some contrasting opinions and feelings about prisoners. I receive a bit of mail from prisoners there, and they tell me that I am one of the few people who ever listens to or responds to what is going on, and so I knew I had to submit a bill. It’s a pretty overwhelming situation, and somehow I plan to remain involved. There will most likely be a study group created by the legislature, and I hope that many of you might become involved and challenge your thinking about incarceration, basic human dignity, and justice.

Eventually I will lead again- after all, we don’t chose to be leaders. For example, Colorado does not have a bottle bill. There are many opportunities to lead, both big and small, for all of us, on a daily basis.

I still have a place in Owl’s Head where I can land if I need to, and you’ll see me again.

Thank you for putting your faith in me over the years and giving me the opportunity to learn, grow, and lead.

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How to Make Scalloped Edges in Illustrator

yellowOrangeHere’s a great way to make scalloped edges in Illustrator.

Open up Illustrator. Make a new document. The dimensions of the document don’t matter.

Under the Rectangle Tool, hold down the little triangle so that the options for the other shape tools pop out. To make the logo at left, I selected the rounded rectangle tool. But you could also select the Ellipse Tool. If you do, hold down the shift key to make the circle perfectly circular.

Drag out a circle on your new document.


You can fill the circle with any color you like. Set the stroke size to 20 px.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 1.38.24 PM

Next, go to the Control Bar, and select the Stroke Panel, or go to Window > Stroke. With the circle selected, click on the “Round Cap” option. Give the corner a “Round Join” and “Align Stroke to Center.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 1.47.33 PM

Next, you will make the scallops!

Click on the “dashed line” option, set the dash to 0px, and the gap to 19 or 20 px about.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 1.50.31 PM

And there you go!

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Ah to be designing again…

Hey everybody

I’m working on getting a design portfolio site together again. After six years of teaching computer science and web design at a public high school, my designs are all over the place, on various hard drives, sites, never enough time to compile everything in one place, never time to showcase anything, and- god forbid that someone should call me about a freelance job…

So all that’s about to change- I’m getting back to my creative code roots, and it feels good. I’m starting to transition back to creative work, and it feels good. Not that teaching isn’t creative, but, I want to work on my own art and my own code, too!

Therefore- stay tuned, development coming!

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