Category Archives: Be Nice Project

Musings on wind storms, RGE, and the luxury of power on demand

The wind storm left a gorgeous sky Wednesday afternoon, even without any snow or rain or ice.

For the last three days, we’ve been without power here at Casa de Brokaw, thanks to hurricane force winds on Wednesday that blew with fierce, damaging force far into the night. At least one town was under a state of emergency and a travel ban was imposed in the county to allow emergency and repair vehicles to get around. By morning, more than 150,000 people were without power.

In our little corner of the world, we lost power Wednesday afternoon, and a few hours later had the luxury of a generator that ran our fridge, a space heater, and a power strip to power the internet router and charge mobile devices. I also had a propane camp stove to cook on. A bluetooth speaker and some Canine Calm CDs downloaded to my tablet (and a tranquilizer or two to combat the wind noise, work crews, generators, and chain saws) helped keep the pups mellow.

A neighbor’s pine tree dropped an enormous limb and it missed our chicken coop and garage (but unfortunately got the neighbor’s garage).  I used my battery powered devices sparingly, just in case, so we were able to keep up with news, and while we were never toasty we kept the cold at bay. It was stressful at times, but it was survivable. We were able to borrow a generator to get my mom’s house survivable as well.

The neighbor’s pine tree dropped a giant limb. It just missed our garage and chicken coop. The neighbor’s garage wasn’t so lucky.

And just when we finally figured out how to deal with the dark, we got some more wind, a little snow, and frigid temperatures. Bitter, biting, blustery cold.

Everyone waited to see when the lights would come on.

Bandit and I curled up under a giant pile of blankets and kept each other warm.

The local power company explained the process on Thursday on local radio, starting with making the downed wires safe to work on, and then assessing the damage; assigning priority to places like hospitals, nursing homes, and first responder facilities; and then working to get 90% of people back online by Sunday night. Trucks from power companies from around the region were headed to Monroe County to help.

That seemed reasonable to me. This was a fierce windstorm that many people compared to “the ice storm”, which you’ve been around Rochester long enough know refers to the ice storm of 1991 that shut the city down for a week and caused massive widespread damage.

The winds were so fierce that the chickens, who don’t normally get along, were frightened enough to make peace long enough to cram themselves under their nesting boxes.

The comparison might have been deceiving. When the winds hit this past Wednesday, temperatures were in the 50s. There was no snow or rain or ice. If you had power, you had no idea how bad things were for those without. In 1991, everyone knew we’d suffered a massive weather event because the next day you could see the ice and snow and devastation. But Thursday morning? Just another day – unless you were without power.

We were told we’d have power by Sunday night. But this afternoon around 3 pm, the lights came on. If you consider that the storm was still happening through the night on Wednesday, that means RGE got us back online in two days.

The lights suddenly came on at about 2 o’clock this afternoon, a day ahead of the expected restoration day on the RGE website.

When the power came back on, I cranked up the heat to try and raise the temperature past the 49 degrees we’d endured the last day.

Our area went from 150,000 plus people without power to about 40,000, with most of the rest expected to be back up and running by tomorrow.

I think that’s pretty good. But today, I learned RGE was taking a beating from New York Governor Cuomo for not responding more quickly. He’s calling for an investigation into the way RGE handled the event.

Which surprised me, and made me a little angry.

Personally, I’d like to thank RGE for getting us up and running (a day earlier than predicted) in what was truly a major emergency situation, and for doing it with the safety of not only the customers but their employees in mind. And thanks to the other companies from out of the area who responded. Is everyone up and running? Nope. My mom is expected to be offline until Monday, but she’s got a generator and all the things she needs to be comfortable. (And her house is definitely warmer than ours was!)

When the weather turned bitter, bitter cold on Friday, crews worked through the night. When people who know nothing about the way power gets from point A to point B criticized it for not happening fast enough, the crews just kept working.

Me? I spent a lot of time this week musing on needs vs. wants, on how conveniences actually disconnect us from each other, and how life was like “in the good old days”, as well switching up my routine (never a bad thing). Musings I’ll share another day.

For now, I have this thought:

It’s easy to complain when we don’t have luxuries on demand, but we forget that every other day we flip a switch and lights come on. We turn up the thermostat and get heat. We turn on a faucet and hot water runs out. We run our cell phones dead and plug them in to charge. Never underestimate the luxury of power on demand, or the people who bring it to you.

UPDATE 3/12/2017: You can read RGE’s statement in response to Gov Cuomo here.

 

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My birthday, Memorial Day, and Mars approaching

memorial day flag pixaby

photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Today is my birthday – yay! – and it’s also Memorial Day, the one day a year we collectively honor and mourn the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. In fact, in nearby Waterloo, NY, it’s the 150th anniversary of the first public Memorial Day celebration.

Growing up, my mother always joked that the town threw a parade for my birthday, but we always knew what the day was about. She never passed by a veteran selling paper poppies without making a donation – spare change, a few dollars, whatever she had handy. She taught me to honor the dead, and to be grateful.

Nowadays, we Americans use the weekend to have picnics and parties, to revel in a day off from work, and to hit the mall in the name of retail therapy. We’ve forgotten to love and support each other in favor of fireworks and half-off sales.

But today is my birthday, and I get to be greedy, so here is my birthday wish.

Over the next 52 weeks, I’m asking you to do one act of kindness a week for someone you don’t know, or at least someone who doesn’t expect you to be nice to them. If possible, challenge yourself to be nicer and nicer as time goes on, going more and more outside of your comfort zone every week. Holding open a door could lead to carrying groceries or mowing a law or painting a house. By this time next year, maybe you’re traveling to another country or volunteering time for a local non-profit. Or maybe you spend the year baking cookies which leads to cupcakes which lead to holding a bake sale for charity. Wherever your kindness leads, my wish is that you follow it.

That’s 52 nice things by this time next year. Come on, you can do it. I promise you won’t be the same person 365 days from now. And the world won’t be the same, either.

And the Memorial Day challenge? Make one of those nice things you do for a serviceman or woman. Maybe you offer to help out a family whose husband or wife is serving overseas. Babysit, do yard work, or just bring the trash cans up the driveway every week. Consider sending a letter or care package to an active serviceman or woman who doesn’t get mail from home. (Anysoldier.com is an excellent way to send mail to any soldier in need of a morale boost; I wrote about this last Christmas, if you want to learn more.) How about adopting the grave of a veteran and placing a flag or wreath on holidays? (Here’s a great story of a man who had made that his life’s mission.)

Today Mars comes the closest to Earth that it has in a decade. On my birthday!! Coincidence? I think not. I believe that’s the universe’s way of coming close to remind me – and hopefully you – that in the vastness of space and time we are but tiny specks of dust – and yet, important enough that planets travel across the galaxies to say hello. We are powerful; we are living and breathing and colliding with each other in ways that leave us all just a little bit changed forever. That’s a big responsibility for tiny dust specks.

So on my birthday? Make a wish. Be a change. And remember that life is an adventure. Don’t forget to live it.

High school student turns the tables on bully with Positive Post It Day

In my continuing search for ways that people really love their neighbors, I stumbled on this story about a high school student in Alberta, Canada who is the catalyst for “Positive Post It Day.”

When a fellow student posted a hateful comment on Caitlin Prater-Haacke’s Facebook page, telling her to die, Caitlin turned the tables on the bully. She created post it notes with positive messages and posted them – on every student’s locker in the entire school.

The administration didn’t see the love, though, and reprimanded Caitlin for what they considered littering the school.

Fortunately, the city of Airdrie saw the beauty in what Caitlin did and passed a resolution for Positive Post It Day.  As Mayor Peter Brown says, “Positive begets positive.”

Consider taking time today to write a positive note to a friend, family member, or colleague.

 

It’s time to say “Thank You” to our police officers


(Video of the moving eulogy by Lt. Eric Paul at the funeral of Officer Daryl Pierson)

It’s been more than a week since Rochester Police Department’s Officer Daryl Pierson was gunned down by a repeated parole violator he was trying to apprehend, and just a few days since Pierson’s funeral and the community-wide gathering in his honor. While there was a memorial last night at the East Rochester High School football game (Pierson grew up here, attended school here, and lived here with his wife and two young children) the press has moved on to other, more pressing subjects.

But this morning, a young wife and her children awoke, just one of thousands of days ahead of them as they learn to live without their husband and father.

And this morning, hundreds of police officers across our community pinned on their badges, strapped on their guns, and went out to do the same job that killed Officer Pierson.

For you.

It’s been on my mind this week that while our community has rallied around the Pierson family, the Rochester Police Department and other area law enforcement, it’s only natural that our devotion will wane as we move farther and farther from the event that shook our city just 10 days ago.

That bothers me. I’m the daughter of a police officer; my dad is a retired Gates cop. I know firsthand the toll the job can take on a family, a marriage, a life.

I think the vast majority of people in Rochester understand that the police are the good guys. Are there bad apples here and there? Sure, but they’re a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the family of men and women who wear a badge.

That’s why you hear about the bad ones; it’s not a big news story when a cop goes to work and no one complains, when he serves a warrant and takes the criminal into custody without incident, when he stops a car and apprehends the suspect and no one is killed.

I know that you believe they’re the good guys, too. But even so, I think most people take for granted that when they dial 911, there’s an officer on duty – and what that means for him and his family. Continue reading

Automated Thanking Machine gives customers gifts – being nice is good business

I’d like to say that this video of customers using an ATM and receiving gifts instead of their expected transaction made me a little teary. But it didn’t. Nope, no misty eyed response for me. I cried. I’m talking giant tears rolling down my face.

The video is from TD Canada Trust, a Toronto-based bank offering a full range of financial services. In short, it’s a regular old bank. But after watching the video, in which they say thank you to some of their regular customers with gifts that show the employees truly know them personally, you’ve got to wonder if there’s something more going on at the heart of the company.

Like … they have a heart?

I recently pulled out the files for the Be Nice Project, the year long mission I was on to try and be nice for 365 days. I got sick soon after and abandoned the whole thing because I was exhausted. (It’s not like I couldn’t be nice while I was sick; it’s just that my energies were so focused on dealing with everything else going on I didn’t think I could keep up with a coordinated project at the time.)

Then I met a few people who’ve been on a similar journey, so I’ve dusted off some ideas, the first of which to spotlight people being nice.

This one takes the cake. And if I was customer, I bet they’d give me a cake the next time I stopped in to make a deposit.

You can learn more about TD Canada Trust on their website.

You can read more about my Be Nice Project in these posts.

50 thoughts on turning 50: #19 Go out of your way to say, “Job well done”

well done 2

I recently went to WalMart to have photos printed and to purchase two small, inexpensive frames. As I meandered through the store, I took a detour through the women’s department, noticed the capris were on sale, and loaded up my cart with several styles and sizes to see if I could find something that fit

I don’t know about other women, but I just can’t buy clothing based on the size on the tag. A size 8 can fall off me while a 10 cuts off circulation to my legs. Something that fits perfectly in blue fits entirely different in a different color of the exact same size, in the same style, and from the same manufacturer.

All of that is to say that when I got to the dressing room, I had a cart full of pants. I was going to be there for a while.

While I tried on and discarded item after item, I could hear the girl who was manning the fitting room and switchboard as she answered the phone and directed calls to other departments. She took a call from a customer who was apparently looking for a filter for their aquarium. I got the sense they didn’t know what size they needed but had other information. .

Almost the entire time I was in the fitting room, I could the employee talking to the customer, making calls to other departments and possibly calling other stores to see if they had the filter the customer wanted, and doing her best to figure out what the customer needed and if the store had it. She was also fielding and directing other incoming calls and letting other customers into the fitting rooms. What struck me was that I never heard her get frustrated or flustered; she was calm and pleasant and helpful.

When I was finally done, she’d gone to lunch. I headed over to the photo department, where I used the photo kiosk to order prints. When I checked with the photo counter to confirm that they’d be one hour, the young man working there told me he’d have them for me in about 10 minutes.

I found my photo frames and went back to the photo counter, where the young man another employee – a young girl – were talking. They were relaxed and chatty, but not in that “I don’t want to be here” kind of way employees  sometimes can are. I finally asked them if they liked working there. Both said yes, and the girl told me that her  job is to help customers, and she enjoyed that.

At the checkout, I had yet another great employee. Usually the cashiers at WalMart are talking to each other and ignoring the customer, or are so surly you just want to get out before someone bites your head off. Not my cashier. She was super friendly, made eye contact, and asked me if I’d found everything.

I can’t remember the names of those four employees now, but at the time I’d jotted them down on the palm of my hand. Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: intro

Yup, its true. In a few weeks, this little chickadee celebrates a milestone birthday: the 20th anniversary of my 30th birthday.

Or if you want to be more specific, I turn 350 in dog years.

I’ve been thinking back on my life, as old people do, and thought it would be fun (ie: work) to share 50 things I’ve learned about life, writing and myself to celebrate turning 50. It might be a video, a quote, a joke, a photo. Some I’ll explain; some I’ll just throw out there and let you figure out how it applies to your life.

The original plan was to share one thing for the 50 days leading up to my birthday. But we all know how undependable I am, so I’ll just start sharing and when I get to 50 things, I’ll be done. Hopefully, that’ll be before my 60th birthday.

Stay tuned for $#1 …