THE HEROES AMONG US

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HERO: Coined in 1387, the word hero comes from the Greek (hērōs), “hero, warrior” and literally translated means “protector” or “defender”.

So how long does it take to become a hero? One moment? An hour? A lifetime?

How can you achieve this revered status? Unfortunately, I don’t really know!

But after experiencing the death and recovery of Mom since last Sunday’s drowning at Stinson Beach, I’ve come to realize there are two basic kinds of heroes:

There are “reluctant” heroes, and those who earn the title one day at a time.

My definition of a reluctant hero is a soldier, a firefighter, an EMT or innocent bystander who is presented with an unexpected situation, and because of their training or willingness to help they end up performing a heroic action like saving our beautiful Mom.

These reluctant heroes seldom want recognition, and often feel guilty when others project the “hero” label on them. They are just doing their jobs in many cases, and to a large degree I agree with that sentiment.

But to the person they saved, that reluctance doesn’t make them any less deserving of heroic recognition.

As humans we love to hear about heroic actions and we have a tendency to put reluctant heroes on a pedestal and idolize them. We crave that kind of feel-good story that is the stuff of movies: So neat, so tidy, so definitive. But real life is seldom so elegant, and resolution seldom comes with such expedience.

In Mom’s case, our firemen heroes (although off-duty) were in fact just doing their job, or at least what they were trained to do. They were in the right place at the right time (divine intervention?) and had they, the lifeguard on duty, or the two folks who originally pulled Mom from the water sat idly by, Mom would have paid the ultimate price and a tsunami of grief would have followed shortly thereafter.

But you know what I think makes them real heroes? Not the action they took, but the split-second decision they made to get involved. All of them.

They suppressed the fear or uncertainty any person has when confronting a life or death situation and took action immediately. Reluctant heroes are often the embodiment of actions speaking louder than words.

While reluctant heroes are typically thrust into their heroic situation against their will, one-day-at-a-time heroes are also our guardian angels and they come in all shapes and sizes.

I’ll call them the heroes among us.

Through hard work, dedication, and consistently protecting and defending those who can’t do it for themselves, the heroes among us deserve as much respect and recognition as the reluctant heroes, after all, they perform exactly the same life-saving heroism… the only difference is they do it over a much longer period, and they do it willfully.

During the past few days I’ve become acutely aware of (and found inspiration in) the heroes all around us. These are the heroes that earn our respect day in and day out through dedication, hard work, and meaningful interaction in our lives. The heroes I’m talking about are the caregivers at the Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo California, and of course our family and friends who’ve been so supportive through this painful experience with Mom.

Firstly, the nurses, technicians, therapists, and doctors who helped Mom:

They are as responsible for saving her life as the two firemen on the beach! They are heroes in every sense of the word. I don’t need to go into a long drawn out explanation of what they do, but suffice it to say they spend all day on their feet, walking from patient to patient, dealing with all kinds of terrible situations, and they still keep their heads up, their noses to the grind-stone, and make life-changing decisions at a moments notice with minimal information.

And they usually do it with a smile and a positive attitude meant to lift the spirits of those around them.

These hard working people take risk, the reward of which is to save a human life. And they take these risks every day, every hour, every minute. They protect, and they defend, and they do it at their own peril and in most cases without special recognition or thanks.

They truly are the heroes among us.

Mom is another hero in this story. She is so strong and so deeply desires not to miss anything fun that I guess she simply was not ready to go, and we are glad. When she finally opened her shining eyes three days after her accident and chatted with us about what happened, and how she got where she was, her very first instincts were to apologize for causing such a fuss and upsetting the kids and the family. She talked about how they were having “such a blast” then just remembers “being slammed”, and darkness.

Her second instinct was to share her deepest gratitude with the “hotties” who saved her life (the firemen), and the hospital staff who’ve been so instrumental in her journey back to us. She is a shining example of a life-long hero. One who has been through many trials in life, and through it all she’s never retreated or gone to a dark place, which is what so many others have succumbed to when confronted with great tragedy and challenges in life. Mom never focuses on her self, but instead chooses to project her positive energy on the people around her and in return that positive energy comes back to nourish her in spades. She is the real-life manifestation of “the power of positive thinking!”

Dad (Jeff), Ricky (Mom’s brother) and Allison (Rick’s wife) are heroes #2,3, and 4 in this beautiful story. Each of them processed this tragedy in different ways, but their actions were in keeping with the fine traditions of other heroes among us!

As you might imagine, Dad has been deeply affected by this whole thing. The devastating realization that life is short, and the fragility of our journey along its path can change unexpectedly at a moments notice. But in Mom’s darkest hour, Dad showed us his instinct to protect and defend her is not diminished, and in fact is strengthened. Dad sat by Mom’s side for nearly three days non stop, held her hand, spoke soothingly to her… he made sure the staff was well aware she is loved and needed by many!

Rick (Uncle Ricky as I like to call him) is also our hero, and Mom & Dad’s defender. Rick is Mom’s little brother and they share what I’ll so geekily describe as a covalent bond, and just like in chemistry, that bond can’t be broken without causing a powerful burst of energy. Ricky is one of the most level headed, sarcastically funny, uber-heroes among us I’ve had the privilege to love in my life. Like Dad, he was there since day one sitting with Mom, holding her hand, talking with her, and making sure that when she woke up briefly in a haze of narcotics and trauma, she was not stricken by the fear that would surely be brought on by the pain in her chest and the uncertainty of not knowing where she was or how she got there.

Rick also formed a strong bond with Dad by sharing the deeply emotional experience of watching helplessly as someone who forms the center of their universe struggle to stay with us. Making sure Dad had (reluctant) periods of respite so he could get some much needed and critical sleep. After all, Dad is now Mom’s guardian angel and she will need him healthy now more than ever before.

Sweet Allison is also a hero among us. Wife, sister, and Mom (and Aunt, but she’s only a few years older than me:-)… all at the same time, and all while dealing with this tragedy and juggling the life of a mother with two children Ben and Kate, in their FINAL WEEK OF SCHOOL: How does a mother deal with all this at the same time and keep it together? I can’t begin to deconstruct that, but I know she and Mom share many great virtues including selflessness, generosity, and an uncanny ability to feel empathy. In sharing these virtues with those around her, Allison keeps her own trials in perspective and in that clarity comes strength. Perhaps when this is all over and the storm has passed, it will involve some serious reflection, and quite possibly a few bottles of good wine that Amy and I will gladly help her with!

My incredible wife Amy is also a hero among us, and not just because she is a teacher of middle school math! From the moment we found out about this tragedy, she went into what I affectionately call her “crisis mode” where she puts up the deflector shields, shuts off her emotions as much as possible, and helps me manage my emotions to arrive at good decisions. In her strength I find mine, and Amy’s been by my side every step of the way, gotten less sleep, stayed more level-headed, and provided more comfort than anything else could have. She is what I needed to make it through this, and for that I love her dearly.

Last night after a really long and trying day of standing vigil over Mom, Amy even spent an extra two hours with Rick and Allison’s son Ben, helping him prepare for his final math exam. I tried to wait up, but passed out around midnight only to sense her getting in bed around 1:30am exhausted and shivering because she was freezing (believe it or not, its 55 degrees at night here in the Bay area during summer!). It never occurred to her to complain or interrupt her session with Ben to go put on a sweater or get some gloves. That’s what makes her a hero among us, and quite reluctantly I might add.

And lastly, but certainly not leastly (no, that isn’t a word, but who cares) the heroes among us who are family and friends. During an event like this the power of positive thinking, the support and prayers… its all good, it’s all meaningful, and I believe it all had a very real affect on the positive outcome.

Everything from Rick and Andrea helping out with a hotel room next to the hospital, to all the heart-felt wishes and notes of support… it all added up to an overwhelmingly positive experience, and one that reaffirmed my personal commitment to strengthen our “family” ties and continue my efforts at getting our families together more often to share this love in the good times, not just the bad ones.

As we see now, it must have worked! The prayers, the thoughts, the support, it all had a singular purpose and that purpose was to empower those of us around Mom to exude the confidence and energy she needed to come back.

And boy, did she ever!

Mom’s survival was made possible by a series of what can only be described as divine interventions… the bystanders who pulled her from the water, the off-duty firemen and the lifeguard at Stinson who literally brought her back to life with the defibrillator and CPR, and the care-givers who watched over her the following week, nursing her back to health.

All we can do is give thanks to the heroes among us, and renew our commitment to living a full life deserving of their sacrifices.

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POWER TO THE PEOPLE

One day's production

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With a 45-panel 11.70 kW solar array, we’re currently producing enough electricity in one day to power two or three average houses (72kWh yesterday), and our highest production in May 2015 was 76kWh in a single day.

The surplus power we generate (mostly during the spring and early summer months) is fed back into the local grid and helps defray our power company’s cost of providing power to our neighbors. Arizona Power Supply (APS) pays us $.03/kWh for our surplus solar energy, and they turn around and sell it to the neighbors for as much as $.24/kWh.

Other times when we’re not generating power (dark or cloudy) we use power from their grid just like everyone else, and we pay the same rates along with our taxes.

We paid to install the solar array and we pay to maintain it. The only cost APS incurs is… nothing. So they profit from our solar power, and that power costs them nothing to produce. That’s a pretty favorable business position for them to be in.

So why are they scared?

Recently you started seeing ad campaigns claiming you are subsidizing your neighbor’s solar use. APS claims “net-metering” of surplus solar energy will cost them (and therefore non-solar customers) more money. Net-metering is when the power company pays us for our extra solar energy that is pumped into their grid, and they re-sell it to others for a pure profit.

But don’t believe them. Their math is, well, not even mathematical… they have an agenda and are literally making things up just to vilify the adoption of solar energy for no other reason than to slow it down. Believe me, there is no time like the present to buy solar, because the “power” these corporations hold over our government and our local legislators is endless… and they WILL figure out a way to change the game.

Their ruse is irresponsible and meant to fool you and our law makers into thinking solar isn’t viable technologically or financially, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. These ad campaigns are paid for by “Big Energy”… so do you think they have an anti-solar agenda?

Private citizens (and many businesses and schools) are paying to install these roof-top solar systems and in the case of APS and other power companies, they actually profit from our surplus power… and the big energy companies pay nothing to produce it.

So how are you subsidizing your neighbor’s solar installation?

The fact is you’re not; it’s the other way around, and that scares them. In the long run, this could actually save the power companies millions of dollars because it slows the necessity of upgrading their antiquated infrastructure. So again, why are they scared?

Behemoth & monopolistic big energy companies (oil, NG, coal, nuclear) are scared right now because solar energy is viable, and it’s taking off. It’s so viable in fact, it poses an imminent threat to their profitability. It’s also a serious threat to the stranglehold they have on our government, our economy, and our judicial system.

Privatized and decentralized clean energy will undeniably cost these huge conglomerates market share, but the loss of market share isn’t necessarily what they fear most. Their worst fear is the loss of power (and I’m not talking about electricity).

Maintaining a controlling and manipulative position is what compels these organizations to spend tens of millions demonizing clean energy. They’re relentlessly lobbying against it and spreading miss-information with no other reason than to slow down its inevitable adoption. And make no mistake, it is inevitable. Solar or otherwise, we will eventually be forced to use alternatives.

Carbon energy sources like oil, coal, and natural gas are non-renewable. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever, and the scarcer they become the more we’ll pay through the nose for them. And big energy knows this. They stand to profiteer more off us in the final days of this outdated carbon-energy policy than in all the decades prior.

But when we as a civilization know something is absolutely going to happen (its just a matter of time) isn’t the smartest path one taken sooner than later? One where we get out in front of the problem? One where we figure out a way to mutually profit from the change, and in doing so, maybe even save our planet?

I’m no priest, I’m not even very religious, but I’m pretty sure if there is a God, a path of ecological responsibility and cleanliness is one that leads to Godliness. And if there is no God (in the literal protect-me-from-harm sense of the word), that’s even more incentive to keep our earth healthy, because there is no salvation in self-destruction!

If you look at the inevitable depletion and ever-increasing costs of carbon energy sources coupled with the potential destruction of our planet, it certainly seems smart to pursue clean energy alternatives without hesitation, even if they do cost more per kWh than oil in some cases.

The Federal government is currently offering incentives for us to install clean energy with a 30% tax subsidy (assuming you pay that much in taxes in the first place). They do this for many reasons but one stands out in my mind: It’s a matter of National Security.

Our National power-grid is perilously close to collapse and is dangerously vulnerable to outages affecting entire regions of the USA. We need to take some pressure off the grid or risk the lives of many. We’ve been pretty lucky here in the Southwest, but that luck will eventually run out. The vulnerability of our decaying power distribution network is a clear and present danger to our National Security and it’s a ticking time bomb that could be exploited by evil-doers.

We know outages of any scale and duration will result in suffering and death because they’ve already occurred, and at an alarming and ever-increasing rate . We can reasonably expect extended loss of power in a region to eventually collapse the economy and destroy much more than just our ability to watch TV and browse the Internet.

Imagine no access to your money, no credit card, no ATM. No food, no water, no medicine, no gas. We’re talking anarchy: tons of guns, take what you want, dog-eat-dog, predators preying on the weak, post-war apocalyptic Road-Warrior kind of stuff…

So I have grave doubts about investing billions into an already antiquated power-grid and generation system that’s ultimately neither scalable nor sustainable. Instead we should push to further decentralize our power generation and in doing so mitigate the inherent large-scale risks of our current carbon-based energy policy.

By investing in solar, wind, and other regionalized clean-energy sources we take immediate load off the already broken power grid, and as clean power-generation efficiencies and power-storage technologies evolve, we can eventually eliminate the need for a national power grid all together.

The complexities of this discussion are way out of our hands and true change can only be affected with sweeping support and action in our government, which we all know isn’t going to happen any time soon… So maybe the best thing we can do is take initiative on our own by looking at the options available right now. Options more accessible and easier to obtain than at any time in our history.

Spend some time looking at this mathematically and my bet is you’ll find it makes more sense than you thought. If you have any doubt about the viability of going solar, contact your local solar installer and have them sit down with you and analyze the numbers.

Do the math!

My installer actually took direct excel reports from my APS invoices, ran calculations based on our roof size, angle, and other factors and helped us intelligently design an array that accomplished our goal: To save money on day one.

And guess what? It worked!

And I’m just one of thousands who can prove it’s working, and it’s working well.

So let’s do the math:

BEFORE SOLAR: We were on APS’ “Equalizer”. This resulted in fixed monthly payments of $260/mo. from about May to October, and $220/mo. the rest of the year, totaling approximately $2880 annually.

AFTER SOLAR: Now we pay $168/mo. for our solar loan (12 years @ 2.99% apr), and our APS power bill is nearly zero ($12 tax) for nine (yes 9) months of the year. The other three months we still pay our $168 loan, and we withdrawal from our “net-metering” credits to pay an average of only $100 beyond our loan in September and October, totaling $2256 annually.

Before: $2880 annually. 
After: $2256 annually (we put zero $$ down to buy this).

APS & SOLAR

And the cost of electricity is ONLY going to keep climbing up, while my cost to produce it with solar is fixed for the next 11 years and mostly free after that!

The math doesn’t lie: Anyone good (or bad!) with numbers will see if you engineer the solar array size correctly, you can achieve what is called an instant Return On Investment, or “ROI”.

Right from the start, we are saving money. But perhaps more importantly we’re investing our hard-earned money in a privately owned and decentralized power plant that (once paid off) will continue to produce the preponderance of our day-time power needs for nearly free, and at the same time free us from the bondage of relentless, inevitable increases in carbon-based energy… Oh, and we might just be doing our part to save our planet if you believe in that sort of thing.

So yea, I’m a believer.

I’m a believer in solar energy, and I’m a believer in putting the power back where it belongs: In the hands of the people, and not with our Government or the faceless Corporations that own it!