The Inflation Reduction Act and HOW it impacts the solar industry.

Our warehouse on rte 60 in Tampa….

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that was passed in August of 2022 is a gamechanger for the solar industry across the United States, and beneficial for our economy as a whole. 

The IRA will spur the growth of rooftop solar just as electric utilities across the United States are forced to increase prices over the next 5 years. 

The price Americans pay per kilowatt of utility electricity is closely tied to global natural gas price fluctuations, and indirectly connected to global oil prices. 

As of 2021 39% of the electricity in the United States was generated from natural gas turbines. 

These turbines can be quickly adjusted to meet variations in demand across the power grid, and combined with the lower price of natural gas over the last 20 years, natural gas has been a clear winner for utility shareholders and their customers as well. 

In 2021 the United States produced 934 billion cubic meters (BCM) of natural gas, the highest producer of natural gas in the world, and 88% of that production was used domestically. 

The second highest producer of natural gas in 2021 was Russia, with 701 BCM produced. Russia was the 2nd highest producer, yet the largest global exporter of natural gas. Germany, for instance, is highly reliant on natural gas exported directly from Russia. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022 disrupted the peacetime trade in natural gas, which has caused an increase in natural gas prices globally since February. 

In 2021 global natural gas consumption grew by 3.3%, making 2021 a record year for natural gas consumption, at 4,103 BCM used globally. 

One way that electric utilities can hedge against volatility in natural gas prices is to install large solar farms within their utility footprint. TECO currently has 6.4 million solar panels in 15 huge solar farms across Pasco, Hillsborough and Polk Counties. Florida Power & Light has a “30 million panels by 2030” plan that will build out the power grid in South Florida and transition our state away from fossil fuels.  

Only 10% of rooftop solar installs in Florida are on individual homes, the other 90% is represented by these large grid-scale solar farms installed by the electric utilities. 

The price of the build out for these large utility scale solar farms is being passed on to FPL and TECO customers in the form of rate hikes.

TECO customers experienced an 18% rate hike in 2021.  

In essence, these electric companies in Florida and across the United States are installing hundreds of thousands of panels and using money from their client base to fund their long term expansion. Once the utility pays off the cost of these solar farms will they pass on the savings to their consumers? 

This is highly unlikely. 

The only way the average homeowner can realistically reduce their electricity costs long term is to either reduce consumption to zero or install solar on their property.  

Here at Tampa Bay Solar we have installed over 1,000 systems, from large ground mounted solar arrays with extensive off-grid battery back-ups on farms in Brooksville to grid-tied solar arrays on rooftops in Riverview. 

Economic Benefits of Solar

In August of 2022 the Inflation Reduction Act extended the 30% federal tax credit for solar on residential and commercial buildings. The IRA also made the 30% tax credit retroactive to all solar installs completed in 2022. 

The 30% tax credit will continue to keep solar prices down and make solar more available for middle class homeowners. The IRA also includes a tax credit for buyers of used electric cars, which makes EV’s more affordable for lower-income Americans. 

Here at Tampa Bay Solar we are seeing a huge uptick in customers who buy electric cars then add rooftop solar to their home. This is not only beneficial to our clients’ wallets, but also reduces the amount of fossil fuels used to power their house and car.

More rooftop solar equals less natural gas needed for the production of electricity, and more electric cars on the road equals less gasoline needed for ground transportation across the United States. 

Even with solar on every roof and all ground transportation converted to kilowatts, there will still be a need for fossil fuels in jet planes, making plastic products, home heating, and basic lubrication for machinery. 

Using solar to reduce our domestic consumption of oil and natural gas today will reap huge economic benefits when the rest of the world runs out of these finite resources and has to buy them from American fossil fuel producers.

At the consumer level consider a homeowner who reduces their electric bill by $300 per month, and also saves $200 per month in gasoline costs by driving an electric vehicle. 

These homeowners who own electric cars can reap a 4 year ROI on their rooftop solar array when one factors in gasoline AND utility savings.  

The Inflation Reduction Act will encourage EV and rooftop solar ownership, thus making the American economy far stronger in the long run.

Contributing to a Solar-Powered Future

If you own a home with full sun on your roof a solar array from Tampa Bay Solar might be a good fit for you. 

We primarily use Mission solar panels manufactured in San Antonio, Texas. 

We are doing our part to use American-made products when possible, and Mission panels have proven to be the MOST reliable panels we’ve ever installed, with zero failed panels to date.

Our goal when working with clients is to install the MOST reliable and time tested solution for your specific needs, at a competitive cost.  

Tampa Bay Solar uses OUR OWN employees to install our work, we are NOT a marketing company subbing out work to the least expensive (and least reliable) sub-contractor.

We feel that the highest quality work comes from doing work in-house, with experienced installers who have grown their skill level across many years, on hundreds of jobs here at Tampa Bay Solar. 

Many of our installers are veterans from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard.

We’re proud to employ the young men and women who served our country with honor and distinction.   

When you call us for a price we will ask you about your roof type and average power bill and give you a price over the phone, upfront. 

Call us today: 813. 398. 3687

Solar, fossil fuels, and the longterm economic dominance of the United States.

The United States produces 16,500 barrels of oil daily, the largest producer of oil on the planet. Most of that oil is purchased domestically, with 12% of American oil being sold on the export market.

The USA is also the top producer of natural gas, producing 934 billion cubic meters in 2021.  

39% of our national power grid uses natural gas turbines to generate electricity, so the majority of our natural gas production is also used right here in the United States. As rooftop solar becomes commonplace there will be less need to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity.

This is also true for electric cars, as more drivers replace a gasoline powered vehicle with a fully electric vehicle. For EV drivers with (paid off) rooftop solar they are essentially fueling their vehicles off sunshine!

A small solar array on every home and business, combined with 1 electric car in every driveway would allow the United States to export more oil and natural gas, which would make the US dollar stronger and grow our economy even further.   

In 2022 the USA is expected to exceed $25 trillion in GDP, in a global economy with a total of $100 trillion in economic output. Americans represent 4% of the global population yet produce 25% of the global wealth!

The United States has had the largest economy in the world since 1871, and as the top producer of oil and natural gas we are poised to maintain our economic dominance for many years to come.

As this blog is being written the Inflation Reduction Act has been passed by the Senate and is moving through Congress this week, with the expectation that it will be passed and signed by President Biden soon after. One part of this Act is an extension of the 30% federal tax credit for solar, a measure that will continue to keep solar prices down and make solar more available for middle class homeowners. There is also a tax credit for buyers of used electric cars, which makes EV’s more affordable for lower income Americans. 

There is a shortage of electric cars on the market due to high demand as well as the computer chip shortage resulting from the Covid pandemic. As the chip shortage is mitigated there will be more EV’s available for sale, and eventually these new cars will show up far cheaper on the used marketplace.

At Tampa Bay Solar we’re seeing a huge uptick in customers who buy electric cars then add rooftop solar to their home. This is not only beneficial to our client’s wallets, but also reduces the amount of fossil fuels used to power that house and that car.

We primarily use Mission solar panels manufactured in San Antonio, Texas. We are doing our part to use American made products when possible, and Mission panels have proven to be the MOST reliable panels we’ve ever installed, with zero failed panels to date.

Even with solar on every roof and all ground transportation converted to kilowatts there will still be a need for fossil fuels in jet planes, making plastic products, home heating, and basic lubrication for machinery. There will be a global demand for fossil fuels even 50 years from now, so if the United States can pump LESS oil now that oil will be sold in future dollars at a high premium.  

In this regard reducing our domestic consumption of oil and natural gas today will reap huge economic benefits when the rest of the world runs out of these finite resources and has to buy them from American fossil fuel producers.

The Inflation Reduction Act will encourage EV and rooftop solar ownership, thus making the American economy far stronger in the long run.

Ben Alexander

Shareholder @ Tampa Bay Solar

August 8th, 2022

10 Reasons why the USA is the most powerful country on the planet, hands down.


The USA has had the largest economy on the planet since 1871.

Our projected GDP for 2022 is 25.3 trillion dollars, while the global economy is right at 100 trillion.

There are 330 million people in the USA out of 8 billion people around the globe, so our little 4% population represents a full 25% of the global economy.

4% of the global population generates 25% of the global economic output!

The 2nd place for GDP goes to China, at 19.9 trillion for 2022.

China’s GDP is impressive, but China is now cracking down on basic freedoms and asking all foreign nationals to leave their country… history shows that countries that rule by authoritarian government do not prosper, grow, or attract foreign investment.

China was on an aggressive GDP growth path from 1990 until about 2013, but the current authoritarian dictatorship running the Chinese Communist Party does not bode well for continued economic growth or freedom in China.

There also exists a massive Chinese real estate bubble artificially propped up by government spending… empty ghost cities that will never return a profit to the investors who put their life savings into these failed projects.

BTW… distant 3rd for GDP goes to Japan with $4.9 trillion… far behind China and the USA.


Our military has the best technology, hands down.

The F-35 5th gen fighter jet was developed here in the United States, and that technology is already 15 years old. I would not be surprised if our Defense Department has some extremely advanced technology that is being kept secret until we actually have to use it.

The USA spends $720+ billion a year on defense, by far the largest miltary spending on the planet, but when your GDP is 25 trillion that’s not such a large number.

We remain the only country with a large enough military to fight a global war on 2 fronts.

Our military is prepared to fight Russia (alongside NATO) in Eastern Europe while also fighting China…. when they invade Taiwan in the next few years.


In 2021 the USA pumped 16,500 barrels of oil per day, making us the largest oil producer in the world.

Saudi Arabia was 2nd place at 10,900 barrels, Russia a close 3rd with 10,800 barrels per day.

Most of that oil is consumed right here in the USA, so we are not sending US dollars OUT of the country to buy oil from foreign regimes.

This is one of the reasons the US dollar just hit 1 to 1 parity with the Euro.

Some of the oil produced here is exported to Asia, South America and Europe, which further adds to our GDP.


With 4% of the global population here in the USA we harvest 8.4% of the global wheat supply.

In contrast China harvests 17% of the global wheat supply but the Chinese people consume 19% of that same number.

If China stops importing wheat there could be widespread famine across their country.

With our wheat surplus here in the USA we have food security.


We have 2 massive oceans to the east and west, a natural barrier to invasion.

Those oceans are guarded by nuclear submarines and 11 nuclear powered aircraft carriers… with F-35 and F-22 fighter jets ready to launch at a moment’s notice.


Our neighbors to the north and south are friendly.

Canada is too polite to invade and Mexico is busy fighting their own homegrown drug cartels.

Also, neither Canada nor Mexico has to worry about the USA invading their country. Not in this century, anyway.

If Canada or Mexico ever invaded US soil our military would obliterate them in days if not hours.


The USA has been a immigration magnet for the last 200 years.

My hard-drinking Irish and German ancestors came here in the 1860’s to fight in the Civil war, build infrastructure and get in drunken fights in bars all over the Northeast.

Our entire space program after WWII was staffed with German and Jewish rocket scientists.

Immigrants from India have been the backbone of the American software industry for the last 40 years.

Korean and Chinese immigrants came here to start small businesses, and their children became a 2nd generation of doctors and engineers.

My ex wife came here from Taiwan to work as a teacher and realtor.

My next wife came here from Ukraine and works in the shipping business… we’re getting married in the spring btw…

The USA has been a place where talented immigrants like Sergey Brin and Elon Musk came here to start multiple companies, innovate and add to our huge GDP.


Americans are really frickin’ creative.

This is where Jazz, Blue Grass, Hip Hop and social media was invented.

The modern power grid was invented here in the United States… so was the Internet!

There exists a creative energy that comes from a society with a mix of people from all over the world, coming together and doing cool shit.

Part of this massive creativity comes from our freedom to do whatever we want, worship or not worship any religion… if you have a creative idea you can come to the USA and use that idea to start a business, make money, and come up with more creative ideas.


Our population continues to grow.

In China the population has SHRUNK since 2018, down to 1.4 billion from 1.5 in 2010.

The population of Japan, Russia and Italy are also shrinking in similar fashion to China…

Young people in those countries are not having children as much as previous generations.

These countries will eventually have a large mass of retired people living off government pensions with barely enough middle aged and younger people paying into the taxbase to support them!

In general retired folks are not innovationg, starting new companies or hiring new employees.

In the United States our Hispanic / Spanish speaking population is our fastest growing demographic, going from 12% in 2010 to 20% in the 2020 census.

The USA can use immigration to add younger people to our population, even if our natural born citizens are having fewer children.

Young people pay taxes, invent new stuff, start new companies and help grow the economy.

If the USA wants to remain a dominant superpower we should allow for MORE immigration, especially young people who already have a college degree.

I’m pro-immigration as long as those folks are law abiding and willing to work.


There is corruption in every country, but for the most part Americans (and American companies) are known globally for being honest and getting the job done.

Elon Musk was born in South Africa, but he came to the USA to start Paypal, Tesla and SpaceX.

Corruption here in the USA is the exception, not the rule… after working in many American businesses over the last 28 years I have never had anyone try to bribe me, and I’ve never had anyone ask me for a bribe.

In contrast I’ve heard many stories about rampant pay offs and corruption from friends who have done international business in Eastern Europe, Africa or South America.

There are still lying and cheating Americans, but for the most part we are known for being straightforward and honest in our business dealings.

There exists a legal system in the United States that allows a citizen to sue a business if their product is dangerous and causes injury or death. This system is occasionally abused, but it keeps companies in check when it comes to offering safer products and services.


I hope you like the stats I’ve compiled here, we don’t have a perfect country, but it still beats everywhere else when one looks at macroeconomic factors.

I’ve spent time in Europe, Asia and Central America and these varied adventures have given me a unique perspective on what we got right and what we need to change in this country.

Have a great August!

Ben Alexander

August 2022

My fave “thing to do” in Tampa Bay.

I moved to Tampa from the Northeast almost 20 years ago, and I’ve gotten to know almost every square inch of Tampa Bay, especially in the last 5 years selling solar. There are a ton of cool towns to visit and places to see in a 100 mile radius of Tampa city, lotsa great restaurants as well.

One of my favorite Tampa Bay activities is the Spongeorama island cruise from Tarpon Springs out to Anklote Key, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, about 5KM west of the docks.

It is especially beautiful around sunset:

The cruise only costs $30 per person, you can catch the boat at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, right behind Yianni’s restaurant.

We went to Hella’s for some light fare before the cruise… I’ve never had a bad meal at Hella’s. That’s probably why they’re always busy. If you like Greek food go there and enjoy!

I took this pic of My Favorite Ukrainian:

Life here in Florida is far removed from the chaos of Olga’s Ukraine. I’m glad we have this time together.

Olga owns an apartment in Kyiv, but she’s safer here in Florida, eating Greek food with me.

We got margaritas on the boat and enjoyed the ride out:

The boat takes you to Anklote Key, and you can get off the boat, walk around and collect shells… and just enjoy the breeze and the sky and peace of it all. They typically stop for about 40 minutes.

Only $30, for a cool experience. makes for a great date, or just an activity with the kids. You’ll see dolphins, exotic shorebirds, hawks, flying fish… all the nature and life that’s abundant here.

I’ve taken this cruise many times over the years, and I never get tired of it.

If you visit Tampa check it out!

My last V-6 engine.

Don’t worry, I still have the Volt:

I had been thinking about buying a “weekend” car for the last few months, and I was looking at full electric cars… but they were all priced over $40,000, so I bought a used Acura TLX for just under $20K.

We needed another vehicle for the Ukranian Delegation, another factor in my decision.

For high mileage days I’m still using the Volt, but otherwise the Volt is there so Olga can have a car and do her own thing as needed. She works in the shipping business part time from home on her laptop for now, but that may change once her work visa goes through.

Before I bought my Volt back in 2017 I owned a Avalon with a V-6 and loved it.

The TLX has a 3.5 liter V6 that cranks 290 horsepower, and the car is tight, right and solid at 130 mph. I feel like the Japanese carmakers have really perfected the modern V6. My Acura does 100 mph at only 2100 rpm! That’s just crazy… but electric cars are going to take over in the next decade and a gas powered V6 engine will become antiquated technology.

Funny thing is how the acceleration in the Acura with the V6 is about the same as the Volt on all electric mode, but the Volt has a smoother delivery. My Volt is SMOOTHER than my Acura!

Even the best gas powered transmission is not as smooth as an electric powertrain.

By the time I need another car I’ll find a 100% electric car on the used market that is finally affordable.

Right now I can’t justify spending $40K on something with wheels. I’m cheap.

For under $20K the Acura was a good buy:

The previous owner really kept it clean and unmolested. I’ve changed nothing on it, windows were already dark tinted when I bought it. The car was bought in Florida in 2015, so there are no salt / rust issues underneath.

Acura is a Honda engineered product and I’m a huge fan of their motorcycles, I owned a CB1000r for several years:

I wish I had kept this bike longer… but I traded up to a ZX-14R… another blog post altogether!

From 1996 until 2015 I owned a 1978 Honda that refused to die:

If everything was engineered like Honda / Acura there would be far less work for auto mechanics everywhere. Fer sure.

Have a great July y’all!

July 2022

A summer roadtrip with The Ukranian Delegation.

Mom organized a military memorial service for Uncle Ken, who passed during Covid 2 years ago… and it all went down last week in NJ.

I decided to drive up with Olga and Vlada.

Our first stop was South of the Border, a money laundering operation on the South / North Carolina border.

Vlada wanted to pet an alligator and handle some venomous snakes.

Olga looking lovely.

Brought home this guy in a shoebox….

There are a million different businesses at South of the Border, and they spend a gazillion $$$ on billboards up and down rte 95, yet the place always looks deserted, hence my money laundering theory.

The reptile house was worth the visit, only $8 per person!

Next day we saw DC:

The new WWII Memorial. Really awesome!

That night we finally reached NJ and Uncle Ken’s service was the next day. It was nice to get everyone together, the six of us live in 3 different states. Mom arranged for a nice lunch after the service, but 2 of my Dickhead Uncles blew it off.

They don’t read… this blog, or anything else.

My 73 year old mother moved Heaven and Earth to get everyone together, because she values family and she knows we’re all getting older. She might not get too many opportunities to see her brothers again… but they don’t really give a shit… so….

The cool folks went to lunch.

Nice pic with Mom and Dad.

The 4 siblings… George finally smiled.

That night I took Olga and her daughter to the Ocean City boardwalk.

I used to hang out in Ocean City in my teen and college years. It was a lovely Friday night, the view from the Ferris wheel was lovely.

The next day I took the Ukrainians into Philly to have a cheesesteak at Pat’s.

Cause yo, that’s how you do Philly.

That afternoon Andrea hosted a big get together at her house.

Vlada bonded with Henry the pug.

Morning coffee with Olga at Da Holiday Inn.

The next day we drove 2 hours north to see NYC. We started with the 9/11 Memorial.

Everyone should go see this. Very moving.

We drove uptown to see Times Square. It was hot and dirty and crowded. Pics look better than the reality. I’m not a huge fan of crowded and expensive cities like New York City. The roads and tunnels look old and torn up, 30 minutes of parking cost me $45…. I think people glamorize places like this when in reality New York CITY is a stressful place.

We got on the road that night and headed back South. We stopped in DC to have dinner with Olga’s friend from Kyiv who now lives in DC.

Lotsa Ukrainians are spread out all over the world since the Russian invasion.

They were lucky to get out alive.

Olga has friends that stayed in Ukraine who have been missing since March.


Nice thing about a road trip is the ability to stop anywhere on the way home, on Monday we had lunch in very pretty Charleston, SC.

I’ve never been, Charleston is a lovely town on the South Carolina coast:

Charleston is an hour’s drive east of rte 95, with Civil War era buildings and lotsa really good restaurants.

If I wasn’t keen to get home we would have stayed longer…

Our LAST stop was Buc-ee’s.

Biggest gas station in the Universe !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

80 cars can gas up at the same time!

Pulled pork sammitches!

Redneck Heaven!

I’m back now, writing this on my home computer, so don’t try to rob my house.

Ben Alexander

June 28th : 2022

To my Dad, on Father’s Day 2022

I don’t have a good pic of my Dad in my computer, but here is a pic of me and Claire instead…

She was 8 here? Not sure. Claire is 24 now, all grown up.

I wanted to sit down and write a handwritten letter to my father this morning, but then I thought it might be better if I posted it right here for the entire world to see:

Dear Dad,

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m tremendously grateful to see you and Mom at church this morning, then later today for dinner.

You and Mom are an energetic 73, another thing I’m very grateful for!

You and Mom are such a huge blessing in my life, and I’m glad you live right here in Florida so that we see each other frequently.

Now that my own girls have reached adulthood and are successfully “launched” I’m even more appreciative of what you and Mom did in raising 4 children to adulthood…. and beyond.

None of us were charged with a felony!

It’s not easy, and every stage of parenthood has unique challenges. You and Mom raised an FBI agent, a Registered Nurse, a Fashion Designer…. and whatever the heck I turned out to be!

I know I was wild teen and a huge pain in the ass, but you both supported me when I went to Taiwan, started a goofy balloon business, and more recently went to Ukraine. You both put up with a LOT, most of which I will not detail here due to federal secrecy regulations.

You both provided me an example of what it means to embrace responsibility, love your family and also serve the community, especially your work with our local school and in our church community.

You stayed together in your (53 year!) marriage, even despite challenges.

Now that I’m 48 I’ve come to realize that the BEST men in our society do what you did; accept responsibility, work hard, and love your family.

You went to church to support Mom, even though you were not a very churchy type of guy.

Over 53 years that amounts to 2,756 Sunday services!

That’s a whole lotta Sundays! You must love Mom a lot.

You also earned good money, kept the house nice, and took care of Mom.

A real man takes care of his wife and kids, even if it means waking up at 5AM and driving to a nuclear power plant in a Toyota Corolla with a gazillion miles on it.

You’re still working now, as an unpaid maintenance guy at Harvester Methodist!

There are men in my generation who did not have fathers, or grew up in the turmoil of divorce. Those men did not have the benefit of the example you provided for me, and they are worse off for it.

As Greg the Famous Prison Guard once told me:

“All the guys in my prison had ONE THING in common: no fathers around.”

Dad, you were always around, working 2 jobs sometimes… my entire life.

So on this Father’s Day I’m thanking you, publically…. right here on my blog.

I’ll see you at church at 9AM!


Your Son Ben

Unexpected Surprises.

When I booked my flight to Warsaw back in March I had no idea what might happen when I got to Ukraine. Fly there April 3, fly back home April 30th. Everything between those 2 dates was pure potentiality, random occurences, and more than a small amount of risk.

I wanted to take ACTION, but I had no idea what might result from booking that flight.

I just FELT that I had to go there, in my gut.. and in my heart as well.

When I got to Lviv and met Pastor Prokip I had no idea we would raise $12,400 to help purchase a much needed van for his church, with help from the generous folks at Harvester Methodist back home in Land O Lakes :::

And if helping my friend Volodymyr Prokip was the ONLY outcome of this trip I’d be very happy, very grateful, very BLESSED to have this opportunity.

I’d be grateful just to have MET this man, and the folks at St. John in Lviv.

I took a step in FAITH to go seven times zones east, and if I had NOT followed that instinct I NEVER would have met Olga and her daughter Vlada:

I went to Europe as a single Dad, NOT on any dating apps at all, just writing my 3rd book plus a crazy desire to volunteer and just Do Something Helpful.

But how can a guy like me meet a gal like Olga (also single….) and NOT ask her out for dinner?

On our first date we had a great time, Olga thought I was totally insane, but she went on a 2nd date anyway… Thank Goodness!

Olga has worked for the last 2 decades in the shipping business, so she’s smart, speaks English fluently, and I made her laugh…

Olga is also an active member of the Kyiv Rotary club, and I liked that about her.

I knew that I was flying back to the States on April 30th, so we went on a few dates, we felt a connection… but the future was a big looming big question mark.

Olga’s daughter Vlada is 15 (she turns 16 next week) and she reminded me of my daughter Grace: smart, quiet, and plotting Eventual World Domination. We included Vlada on our outings, and we all got along well.

Vlada is a nice kid, she’s a credit to her mother, for sure.

She’ll probaby grow up to become President of Ukraine someday, so we’ll be able to say we “knew her back in the day”…

Olga and I both knew the visitor visa requirement to come to the USA was complicated, so I came back to the USA not sure if we would see each other again… unless I flew back there.

That same week US Immigration came out with the Unify Ukraine visa, a program that allows Ukrainian citizens to come to the USA for 2 years, AND let’s them work here… the only requirement was that I fill out a form (the I-134) saying that Olga and Vlada could stay with me and that I’d help them out when they arrived.

I filled out the form, thinking it would take immigration 6 months to process everything… and our application was approved in less than a week!

I have a 4 bedroom house… just me here since Claire moved out 5 months ago.

Claire even took the cat.

Ms. Lemonssss………… noooooo…………

Olga and her daughter flew here three weeks ago. Before they arrived I took the all the stuff out of my 2 spare bedrooms and repainted both rooms, bought a dresser at IKEA, bought new bedsheets, etc.

Olga is encouraging me to eat healthier food.

The fridge in my kitchen went from empty to filled up with all the veggies and healthy food that it takes to sustain 2 Ukranian ladies and a goofy American.

I still like my instant coffee, but Olga conviced me to buy an Espresso machine.

I’m taking Olga and Vlada all over Florida… last weekend we visited Miami.

Crystal clear water, looking down off the pier in Sunny Isles, FL
Breakfast with some Americans, Ukrainians, etc….

Yesterday we took an hour drive down to Sarasota, visited the Ringling museum, swam in the ocean, goofed off a bit….

For some reason I make Olga laugh, often. The last few months of her life since the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been tough. Several of her friends are missing, presumed gone. She still has an apartment in Kyiv, but until this conflict is over it is not safe for her or her daughter to go back.

A Russian missile could kill anyone in Ukraine right now, randomly and without mercy nor logic.

A few days ago Olga told me this is the first time she’s felt peace in months.

We laugh often, and this is the best thing I can give her.

Olga encourages me to eat more vegetables. We hit the pool together most mornings.

I say goofy stuff and Olga laughs.

Vlada is in tennis camp up at the Land O Lakes rec center… in addition to her Secret KGB Training.

As I write this in the early hours of Father’s Day I’m looking forward to going to church with Olga and Vlada this morning.

We’re going to my parent’s house for dinner tonight.

Grace is somewhere over in Australia, but I’ll see my Claire tonight.

I don’t know what the future holds for us, after the war Olga and Vlada might want to go back to Ukraine, but for NOW I’m glad they are here.

Life is full of unexpected surprises!

Ben Alexander

SUNDAY June 19th 2022

An Abundance of Sorrow.

For a long time it had been building up inside me, this tremendous sorrow. I’m not really sure where it came from, I had a happy childhood, no one close to me has died in 20 years…

But I just felt… sad.

I suppose this is better than anger. Anger is toxic, destructive… rarely good for one’s health.

Sorrow, tears, sadness in general… the good side is that we see others with more compassion, more understanding. Hard to have a raging ego when you are crying with someone, so that is a good thing.

Maybe it came from the break-up of my marriage in 2017, maybe it came from breaking up with Winni after we dated in 2019 and 2020.

I had really loved her and the kids…

Maybe it was the isolation of Covid, being away from the folks at my church…

Maybe it was almost dying one Sunday afternoon (in early 2021) on my motorcycle.

When I decided to go to Ukraine I felt that sadness even more, especially when I saw the news reports.

But… when I was over there, volunteering, doing small things, helping raise money for a church van… hanging out with Reverend Volodymyr Prokip… my sadness grew smaller.

I started to feel better.

Being around the young people in the church, praying with them, just talking with them…

God was with me, right there in Lviv, working on my heart.

God never left me, this entire time.

God is with you, right now, if you feel sad, especially if you are sad and alone, He is with you.

There is a Light that shines in all of us, if we are open to that Light.

God was there, when Volodymyr and I talked about Faith, late into the night.

I’m grateful to have met Volodymyr and the folks at his church, I’m so grateful that I could be there with them.

When the air sirens began I wasn’t afraid, because I was supposed to be THERE in that moment.

Now that I’m back home I realize that going to Ukraine lifted that sadness. I no longer feel alone.

Of course, someone I met over there is coming here in a week…. with her daughter…. so that might be a part of it as well!

New beginnings?

The Lord works in mysterious ways, indeed.

Ben Alexander

May 21 : 2022

A Ukraine Story.

Back in March I booked a round trip flight to Warsaw, from April 2 to April 30th.

I had no plan, but I wanted to volunteer in Ukraine, so the plane ticket was the first step.

A few days later I found a video on Facebook, an interview with Volodomyr Prokip, a young pastor leading up the Methodist Church in Lviv, in western Ukraine. I called him up, he was housing displaced people at his church, and helping others get to the Polish border, to safety. I asked him if he needed help, he told me “Come over, we can use help, bring gun holsters, medical supplies and kneepads for the local territorial defense brigade.”

I reached out to the folks at my church here in Land O’ Lakes, spent some of my own money and got many donations.

A few days before I left this was the dining room table in my home:

Some people in my life (like my daughter Claire) thought I was nuts to go over there. I knew that going to Lviv was NOT as dangerous as other parts of Ukraine (like Mariupol) but there was certainly a risk in going over. Weird thing is that when I woke up on the morning of April 2nd there was a bible verse going through my brain;

“This is the day that the Lord hath made, we shall rejoice and be glad in it!”

Mom and Dad took me to the airport… total weight on my baggage was 80+ pounds.

I flew to Poland because there are no operational airports in Ukraine since the Russian invasion.

I don’t speak Polish or Ukranian, but during my time in Europe there was always someone around who spoke basic English… thank goodness!

I landed in Warsaw around noon on a Monday, so I took a cab over to the bus station and bought a bus ticket (for $32) that would take me east to Lviv, just across the Ukranian border.

I was the only American on the bus, many of the folks on the bus were Ukranians who had fled west to Poland in the previous month and were now deciding to return home in April. In early April western Ukraine was safer than eastern Ukraine, fewer incoming Russian missiles, but of course this changed later in the war…

The bus left Warsaw at 4PM, slowly plodding east to the Poland / Ukrainian border. There was a woman on the bus who worked in Ukraine as a high school English teacher, so we talked a bit and got to know each other.

In both Poland and Ukraine there is standard English instruction in middle school and high school, so most young people speak enough English to help a clueless American like me.

Whenever I met Ukrainian people and told them I was there to volunteer with the church I would always get a warm response… I grew to love the people of Ukraine in my time there.

About 2 hours into the long bus ride an older woman sitting behind me got a phone call and she started crying with tremendous sadness. Other people got upset as well so I asked the English teacher “What is she so upset about?”

That woman had just learned that her son, in the Ukranian Army, had been killed on the eastern front.

This conflict suddenly felt that much more real to me, the Russian Invasion was no longer something far away on CNN, it was right there in the bus, in the sound of a Mother weeping, in the faces of the other people comforting her. I began to cry, because I couldn’t imagine getting a call like that, about my own children….

The bus was delayed for about an hour at the Ukranian border, the border officer looked very closely at my passport and I explained to him how I was going to Lviv to volunteer with the church. I showed him a printout with information about Pastor Prokip and the address of the church in Lviv.

The slow bus arrived in Lviv at 1AM, and martial law was in effect so the pastor could not drive to pick me up without risking arrest. I looked at the GPS on my phone (which was at 10% battery) and decided to hike the 2.5 kilometers to Pastor Prokip’s apartment.

Both duffels and my backpack topped 80 pounds, so there I was, walking in the cold through a Ukranian city in the middle of the night with 2 heavy bags that made my arms ache.

I made the decision to go there, but I remember talking to God on this long walk, asking him if I was supposed to be there, in that moment, stopping every 300 feet to set the bags down and take a break.

I think I was meant to be there, walking along that street.

When I finally reached the apartment building I took this picture to remember that moment:

I’m amazed that Pastor Volodymyr Prokip welcomed a total stranger into his home (a crazy American), but we quickly became friends in the following weeks.

This guy is only 32 years old, yet he heads up a church that houses displaced people, and he helps everyone who comes to his church, no questions asked. When I got there in April he had already sent his wife and 2 sons to the Czech republic to get them out of harm’s way.

Here are some of the young people staying at the church, many of them lost their homes in eastern Ukraine due to Russian shelling:

My first full day in Lviv we helped a family move out of their apartment and pack up their belongings to move to Canada. I watched Pastor Prokip trying to move people to the border in a tiny 4 passenger car, so after a few days of working with him I called Harvester Methodist back here in Florida and we started a fund to raise money to help buy a van for the pastor’s church.

It took a month, but we raised $12,000 that is now being sent to Ukraine as this is being written.

There was also a large volunteer center in Lviv, so on days when Volodymyr did not need my help I would go there and volunteer:

One of the first people I met there was a high school kid named Vika, she spoke fluent English, I would see her every time I went there, and I predict she will be President of Ukraine one day:

Vika reminded me of my daughters back home, and I admired how she was always there volunteering and giving of her time.

Vika… when you run for Presidente I will return to Ukraine to be your campaign manager!

This retired gentleman was also at the volunteer center on a daily basis:

Right before I went to Ukraine I bought a new Samsung S21, all these pictures were taken on that phone.

Sometimes when I was done working for the day I would walk around Lviv taking pictures of the many churches and lovely buildings in this 800 year old city:

Lviv was part of Poland before WWII, then part of the USSR from 1945 until Independence in 1991. The entire city is full of lovely buildings and squares and hidden spots with quaint restaurants and places to see. There was an 8PM curfew, so the entire city closed early, but everything was open during the day.

There were many times when the War seemed far away and non-existent.

In mid-April of 2022 there where not that many missile attacks… but the air raid sirens were pretty common, this is what they sounded like:

For the rest of my life I’ll never hear this sound again without thinking of all the Ukrainian people who died in these senseless attacks. It’s a haunting sound, especially when 4 or 5 sirens start sounding off in the distance… echoing off the buildings.

Putin is a real bastard, and I hope him and his military leaders die a horrible death for what they’ve done to the innocent civilians in Ukraine and Syria.

There will be a reckoning.

Lviv is in Western Ukraine, 40 kilometers from the Polish border to the west. For this reason Lviv was safer then the cities in the eastern part of the country like Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kherson or Mariupol.

When I got to Ukraine in early April the Russians had already been pushed out of Kyiv (the first true Russian defeat) and the atrocities of Bucha were revealed in the days that followed.

Any student of history knows that Russian soldiers raped and murdered German civilians after Germany lost WWII, and the sad thing is how the Russian military leadership encouraged their soldiers to do the same in this conflict, even awarding medals to soldiers who committed war crimes in Bucha.

Both BBC and CNN had very accurate coverage of this conflict, with reporters on the ground in very dangerous places across Ukraine. Certainly this conflict has been recorded extensively, by drone cameras, by victims, by soldiers and the news media as well.

My plane ticket to Warsaw spanned April 3 to April 30th, so I decided to visit a friend over in Germany for my last week in Europe. Pastor Prokip drove me to the Polish border, and on that same MORNING Russian missiles fell on Lviv and killed 7 people. The area that was hit was on the same street I would use to walk to the volunteer center every morning….

This church was very close to the missile attacks.

Sunset over the Lviv train station… another site that was bombed in the weeks after I was there.

Other than raising the $12,000 for the church van I don’t know that my trip made any difference whatsoever, but I’m so glad I went there, I’m grateful to have become friends with Volodymyr Prokip and the people in his church, I’m glad I met Vika and the other folks at the volunteer center…

My parents and the folks at Harvester Methodist Church prayed for me, and I think that helped.

When I got back it was amazing to see everyone again.

Some thoughts:

I felt grateful to be alive. I trusted God, and He brought me back safe, to share this story.

It was a leap of Faith to step away from my work for a month and go to Ukraine.

We are so fortunate to live in a country that is safe and insulated from war.

I felt called to go, and it was the right thing to answer that call.

Before I went to Ukraine I was writing my 3rd book, and going there and having this experience helped me develop some of the ideas for that next project. If I don’t write much on this blog in the next few months, it’s because I’m using that material for my book.

I had some adventures in Poland and Germany, but that is for another blog post yet to be written!

Ben Alexander

May 16th : 2022