Being Thankful

20 November 2013

We’re quickly moving into that holiday season. My family and I have been amazingly blessed. We have a roof over our heads, we can share meals together, we have kids that make us proud and we love each other. Honestly, every Christmas season, when asked, I can’t think of a single thing that I want because everything that I need is fulfilled.


The only thing that makes me somber during these days is the thought of those whose day to day living is harder. I’ve lived through times like that – days where I told my little boys that we couldn’t rent a movie – I didn’t have the extra $3 to do that. It wasn’t about teaching a lesson or showing the value of money – those $3 had to go towards food. I know the stress that it can cause a family when every day is hard and the thought of doing something special for the holidays is impossible. Those times can occur when people run into unexpected emergencies or make some insanely bad decisions.


My hope is that, if families have the overabundance of love that we have, that we share it with those don’t have it right now. I know of people in the community already that have made decisions that will positively affect others for the rest of their lives. If we could all just do what we can, whether it’s time or money – I still think that it could create a genuine change for those who receive it.


When I was younger, I served with a community service organization for about 10 years. Most of our service was for young women and children, and one of the places that we worked with often was a shelter where women with drug issues were court appointed to spend their time. Most of these women were pregnant and/or had young children with them. Being pregnant with my first at that time, I couldn’t imagine that plus being addicted to drugs. We spent time with them, talking with them, talking about possibilities for the future and playing with the kids that were there. During the time that we served there, we saw many women come and go. A couple of years later, I was having breakfast with a friend. A young women, appearing very professional , came up to me and asked if I remembered her. I didn’t at first, since the change was so great. She told me about how she’d gotten her life back on track, was raising her child and working at a regular workplace. One thing I remember her saying was “We could never understand why you guys would want to come and spend time with us. We knew that you had families and other things that you could be doing, but it always made us feel good that you took time for us”. I know that she made the hard choices and that she did the work to pull herself up. I’m just glad that maybe I could be a small stepping stone or someone that shined a light that showed her a better future. I didn’t spend a dime, I just took the time to listen and have a conversation with someone many people might pass by.


This is the way that I want to express the thanks that I have for everything that I’ve been blessed with. I hope that others do as well.

Simple, But Powerful Advice

18 February 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I was saddened to learn that someone that I had worked with many years ago when I was a sales associate at Foley’s Department Store, one of the first jobs that I had worked while going to college, had passed away of bladder cancer.  When I started at Foley’s, Ralph was an older gentleman who had previously taken early retirement from a middle management position back East and had decided after moving to Tucson that he was not ready to be completely retired.  So, he embarked on a second career at Foley’s and I was fortunate to have him be the one to show me the ropes when I started my position there.  Ralph was a pretty amazing fellow in that he always saw the bigger picture.  Thus, when we he went to train me to be a sales associate, he took time to not only train me on what I needed to know to do the job at hand, he also took it upon himself to impart wisdom that he had learned over the years that he thought would be useful to me way beyond this sales position, which he knew I wasn’t planning to make my career.

 

As I reflected back on my friendship with Ralph after I had learned of his passing, one piece of advice that he had given me came to mind.  This was a piece of advice that I had used constantly throughout the 25 years since I worked at Foley’s and it was Ralph’s mantra.  The advice was “plan your work and work your plan.”  Oh, how simple that advice seemed at the time it was given to me, but that simplicity is very deceiving.  Almost every time that I have screwed something up over the course of my career, it can be traced back to a failure to follow this simple piece of advice.  It is not enough just to have a plan; you have to make sure that you actually follow it.  How many times do we have processes or checklists that we fail to follow because we think we know how to do the work faster or we think we know the process by heart only to have that come back and bite us because we left something out.  This advice has become golden to me over the years and constantly keeps me from doing stupid things.  I still find it amazing today that sometimes the simplest advice that we are given can be the most prolific.

 

In honor of Ralph, I wanted to share this story and bit of advice in the hope that someone might reap the benefits from it that I have. 

 

Rest in peace old friend, you deserve it.

 

Ralph Pennacchio 1930-2013

What in the heck?

What in the heck?


I know that I haven’t blogged in forever, but I thought this particular bug might hit some of my fellow IT people out there.

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to pick up a consulting gig. This was when I realized that I’d been working off of laptops that came from my employers and didn’t have a decent one of my own. I purchased a Lenovo laptop (that I’m very happy with) and, with it, came Windows 8. I actually like it for the most part. It’s shiny and that’s good. The ability to group the tiles and title them really appealed to my OCD. It was great for everything except for the reason that I purchased it.

When I initially started the consulting work, I was working off of an older laptop that had Windows 2008 Server. I connect via a VPN to a VM that they had set up for me. Everything connected perfectly fine and I was working away at the desk that I’d set up upstairs. A couple of weeks ago, my new laptop arrived and at the time it was easier for me to work downstairs. Set up the VPN on my Win 8 machine and everything was great.

Once I moved back upstairs, though, everything went crazy. My VPN connection started disconnecting constantly – I couldn’t keep a connection for more than 5 minutes. I brought up my old laptop, connected to the VPN and everything was fine. I went back downstairs with my new laptop and the connection was fine. By the way, my other internet connections on the Win 8 machine were never affected – only the VPN connection. In case you need help catching up:

  • Old laptop – Windows Server 2008
    • Downstairs – Internet and VPN connections work
    • Upstairs – Internet and VPN connections work
  • New laptop – Windows 8
    • Downstairs – Internet and VPN connections work
    • Upstairs – Internet connections work – VPN disconnects every few minutes

As one last try before going back to my old laptop, Tim put a Win 7 VM on my new laptop last weekend. Guess what? It works fine everywhere. I’ve been working on it all day(upstairs) with no disconnects. Same laptop, same wireless card, same router, same VPN client – just an earlier version of Windows. I’m baffled.

While I hope I’m the only one that’s seen this type of craziness, I doubt it. Maybe this will help someone else from spending a week running up and downstairs.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: Discussion, Miscellaneous |

These days, I live and die by OneNote.  I read a ton of technical blogs and come across a number of great scripts and when I do, I save them to OneNote.  I take notes from meetings in OneNote and I even save videos and webcasts that I feel are especially pertinent to what I do in OneNote.  I have a ton of notebooks in OneNote each with a bunch of sections and pages (in fact, my OneNote notebooks are about 15GB in size!).  But the problem I have always had was that unless I wanted to search through my OneNote notebooks (which, I have to say, Microsoft certainly has included a very capable search functionality in this product), it was hard to find specific things because there didn’t seem to be a way to sort your OneNote sections and pages; basically, they just showed up in the order you created them unless you wanted to manually sort them (but who has the time for that!).

This was a problem until I came across this little lifesaver tool that makes keeping my OneNote notebooks tidy and in order.  It is a little program called the “OneNote 2010 Sort Utility.”  You can read more about this little golden nugget here.

If you decide that this little free utility might make your life easier, you can download it here.

And by the way, if you are using Microsoft Office 2010 Professional and you haven’t tried OneNote 2010 to organize your life (or at least your personal life). I strongly recommend giving it a spin. At first, it may seem a little daunting, just like writing your first SSIS package, being stared at by that blank screen. But, rest assured, there is help out there and a fairly active community of users. Once you understand it’s metaphor to a physical binder (if you are my age, you might even insert “Trapper Keeper” hereJ), with notebooks for different subjects and then sections within each notebook and then pages within the sections and the fact that you can actually print documents to OneNote 2010 as well as attach any kind of file, it becomes one of those tools that is hard to live without. In fact, it integrates so well with Outlook that if you have OneNote installed, your Outlook meetings will have a OneNote button on them and clicking that creates a page that contains all of the information from the Outlook invitation and then lets you take meeting notes. I could go on and on and, in fact, have because I intended this blog post to really only be about this OneNote 2010 Sort Utility, but OneNote is, unfortunately, one of those things that I am quite passionate about because it has saved my bacon a number of times. At any rate, if you don’t use OneNote or want to know how to use OneNote, here are some links to get you started (some of these might apply to OneNote 2007, which some of you may still be on, but the concepts generally also apply to OneNote 2010):

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/chris_pratley/archive/2009/03/10/i-heart-onenote.aspx

http://blogs.office.com/b/microsoft-onenote/

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote-help/getting-started-with-onenote-2010-HA010370233.aspx

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote-help/basic-tasks-in-onenote-2010-HA101829998.aspx

http://www.onenotepowertoys.com/

 


 

Unfortunately, it has been awhile since I have posted a blog up here, but having spent several hours last night on Twitter with a number of esteemed members of the SQL Server community trying to educate a blogger, John Dunleavy [Twitter/Blog] about the proper way to credit authors when you use their work inspired me to get this post up.  Unfortunately, the issue of bloggers or web site operators using other people’s work without properly crediting them is becoming an increasingly more frequent occurrence.  Earlier in the day yesterday, Aaron Bertrand [Twitter/Blog] had a very similar issue with a SQL Server MVP (you can read Aaron’s blog post and the associated comments here). 

So, the point of my post today is not really to rehash the issue of plagiarism (intended or unintended), but rather to discuss why most of us give back to the community in the form of informative blog posts, volunteerism, and answering questions on the forums and to extend that a little bit, if I may, by offering the services and knowledge of the SQL Server community to educate new bloggers about how to get started, what is acceptable, and what is not.

 

First off, why do we do what we do?  Speaking for myself and,  I think,  many members of the SQL Server community, we do this because a) we were all in a position where we were just starting out and needed help; b) someone helped us, answered our questions, and we feel honored to be able to do the same; c) we take great pride in having one of the most open, collaborative, and philanthropically motivated communities in the world of technology.  These services are provided free of charge to anyone who visits any of the hundreds of great SQL Server blogs out there.  The number of books that you would have to purchase or expensive courses that you would have to attend to get anywhere near the content that is freely available on blogs in the SQL Server community would set you back many, many thousands of dollars and it still wouldn’t provide you with all of the benefit of the experience that this community writes from.  Through our discussions last night, some barbs were thrown our way such as “how can you help if your[sic] linin[sic] your pockets” and “You guys are being selfish.”  I would like to address those as I believe there must be a huge misconception about the motivation behind what we do.  First off, there is “no pocket lining” going on here.  Speaking for our site, http://sqlservertimes2.com, we pay for the domain registration and hosting out of our own pockets which, in my eyes, is an investment back into the community.  We receive no revenue from our site as there is no advertising or services sold from the site.  Now, that is just our choice and I want to be clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with hosting ads offering services from your site, if you so choose, to help pay the bills, as long as the content of your site is original or you have at least obtained the permission of the original authors or copyright owners to host non-original material.  Our motivation is strictly a collaborative one.  Lori and I post issues that we have come across in our jobs and the solutions that we have come up with to solve them.  Throughout our careers, we have relied heavily on others’ blog posts for our professional development and feel honored to now be able to participate in that and provide something back.  Our compensation is solely the feedback we receive from readers that lets us know that we provided something that saved someone some time somewhere down the road, nothing more, nothing less.

 

So, where does this leave us?  As I have said many times, I think the SQL Server community is one of the greatest technical communities around.  One of the main reasons for this is the lack of egos and willingness to share.  The majority of us are not insecure and welcome new bloggers with open arms because all of us are constantly learning.  If a day goes by where I haven’t learned something new, it was not a very good day in my book and the more people out there sharing knowledge, the more likely I am to learn something new.  This is a very forgiving community and I believe that if you are a blogger who has or is plagiarizing the work of others because, for some reason, you didn’t realize that it was wrong or you don’t know how to get started blogging, reach out to the community and ask for help.  There are many of us who will gladly help you start sharing your own knowledge and gifts with the community, all you have to do is be willing to understand that plagiarism is stealing and wrong and be open to feedback from the group.  I know most technical professionals are proud and do not like to admit being wrong, but  many times being wrong is the first path to learning.

I was tagged by TJay Belt (Twitter/Blog) in this latest series of blog stories.  I believe that it was started by Paul Randal (Twitter/Blog), carried on by Tom LaRock (Twitter/Blog) and then went viral.  Since ‘New Year’ seems to be synonymous with ‘everything going to heck in a handbasket’, it’s taken me awhile to respond, but here goes.

 

I’ll start by saying that if anyone would have told me that I’d be a DBA (or anything computer related for that matter)

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

when I was in college, I would have fallen down laughing.    My step-father was a biomechanical engineer and one of my main goals in life was not to be a geek like I thought he was.  I majored in Communications with a minor in English.   At the time of my

graduation I had never touched a computer or even wanted to.  So, how did I get to be a DBA?  Sheer coincidence.

 

IBM

Back in my kid-free days, I worked for IBM.  I actually had to use a computer (odd for me), but my responsibilities were working with IBM’s resellers and the maintenance plans they resold.  It was all about soft skills and I spent a ton of time on the phone with resellers.  All of the information that we gathered was stored in a(wait for it…) DB2 database.   After awhile, I took on the responsibility for putting together reports.  While there was definitely no administration going on, it was kind of fascinating to play with all of that data.  That all stopped, though, for my next life changing event.

 

And they looked so sweet...

And they looked so sweet...

Kids

I left my job at IBM just before I gave birth to my first child and became a stay-at-home mom.  Around the time my

 second child was born, I started to feel the desire to go back to school.  The odd thing is that the field that I was drawn to was computer science.  I’m not sure if it was due to some strange chemical imbalance or the need to spend time with something that actually had logic behind it, but I began my computer science degree shortly after my youngest son turned one. 

Going back to school with two little ones running around was definitely a challenge.  Getting to the end of an 800 line assembly language project and have my son smack his hand on the keyboard deleting it, helped me learn the value of saving and saving often.  I’m sure that trying to learn recursion while dealing with a cranky toddler helped my ability to persevere.   Eventually, though.  I completed the program and became a computer science instructor.  Teaching was and is still the field that provides me with the greatest amount of satisfaction.  I enjoyed it immensely and felt that I was good at it.  Unfortunately, though, by that time I was a single mother of two boys and job satisfaction doesn’t exactly pay the bills.

 

My first *real* job

After leaving my teaching position at the college, I was able to get a job teaching the medical staff at our local hospital the new order entry/documentation application.   I knew that this had to be temporary and that I needed to become a part of a more technical division.  During the process of keeping our training environment up to date, I ended up interfacing with our DBA group on a regular basis.  One of the DBAs left and that provided me the opportunity to join the team.   Our lead DBA was pure awesomeness and provided me with a good solid platform of knowledge.  That was back in 2003, completed my MCDBA in 2005 and the rest is, well, the rest is now.    Still working, still learning.

 

It was a crazy, twisted road to get here and I’m looking forward to the road ahead.  I’m not tagging anyone with this, but I’m thankful to TJay for giving me the chance to share my story.

PASS Summit Kool Aid

9 November 2009

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the PASS Summit in Seattle.   As I had mentioned in a previous post, I was fairly anxious about attending, because I knew that there were going to be around 2,000 people there and I had met two in person.  Yep, 2 out of 2000.  Let’s just say that I wasn’t worrying about how to fit in time for catching up with those folks.

 

I knew that the PASS Summit would be a great learning opportunity.  I’ve attended Tech-Ed, SQL Server launches and other similar SQL Server events – the learning that occurred at those events was extremely valuable.  In looking at the sessions for the Summit, I knew that it was possible (probable) that my head would explode with newly gained knowledge.  There are plenty of folks that will be blogging about the sessions and all of the excellent speakers – I may be doing that in a future post, but that’s not my focus here.

 

koolaidman
Ohhhh yeeaaaahhhh!

My focus is on the PASS community.  While I already knew that there were helpful, friendly people that were already a part of PASS, I never thought that it would would pervade the entire conference.  I had the opportunity to meet an incredible number of people – those whom I was familiar with through Twitter, blogs or forums and those whose faces and names were new to me.  In every instance, they were accessible and welcoming.  In turn, these experiences encouraged me to go seek out and introduce myself to others.  This was truly a community in the best sense of the word.

 

Tim and I have been talking about getting more involved and have discussed starting a PASS chapter here in Tucson.  The experiences of last week have made me see that this is not only doable, but necessary.  I’ve supped of the PASS kool aid and it was not only yummy, it’s my new favorite drink.

 

I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the people that I was fortunate enough to meet and becoming more involved in PASS, both locally and virtually.   My hope is to share this community with others and help it to grow.

 

On a more personal note, there were a few individuals that went above and beyond the call of  (professional) duty last week.  I hope that I’ve let you all know personally how much your thoughts and prayers meant.  Tim and I were pleasantly surprised and touched by your willingness to listen and help.  We truly thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

 

On a completely unprofessional note, I was overjoyed to be a part of the karaoke jollification (yeah, it’s a word) on Thursday night.  I was impressed with the singing (and dancing) talents of this crew.  I’m just hoping that there are no incriminating pictures…

I had been thinking of writing a blog post on the SQL Server community for the last couple of weeks.  Seeing Brent Ozar’s blog post “What Community Means to Me” helped me decide to go forward with it.

In my first draft of this post, I went into great detail about the beginning of my career, my quest for meaningful, reliable sources of information and my wish for a view of a larger community.  Unfortunately, I’m trying to get ready for a birthday party, Halloween, soccer games and, oh yes, the PASS Summit.  So that’s another story for another time.

 

When I first signed up to attend the PASS Summit, my hope was that my darling husband would be able to attend with me.  Regardless of what Tim might say, I’m not outgoing enough to walk up and talk with people I’ve never met.  Yet I know that those conversations will probably be the parts that I remember most and best from the Summit.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for Tim and I’ll be attending solo.   I pictured three days of wandering around, trying to make conversations and going back to the hotel room to eat room service.

 

Enter the happy-happy-joy-joy land that is Twitter.  Tim and I both started using Twitter in April of this year.  It was interesting getting started – kind of like walking into a conference – you all have the same interests, but you don’t know anyone.  Slowly but surely we got involved.  Had some lively IM conversations at the spring SSWUG vConference in the Quest chat room, tried to write a rap song, got involved with PASS Virtual Chapters, started a blog, shared meals with a couple of great DBAs and got the kind of SQL Server advice and help that you can’t pay for.

 

Twitter is obviously not the only method for getting involved with the SQL Server community, but I’ve found it extremely helpful for becoming familiar with other people that do what we do.  By reading tweets and blog posts throughout the day, I’ve picked up tips and tricks as well as become exposed to features and functionality that I might not have been aware of.

 

Now, in addition to attending some excellent sessions, I’m also looking

It's not quite this, but close...

It's not quite this, but close...

forward to meeting a number of people that I’ve ‘met’ through Twitter.   I’ve felt more a part of the SQL Server community in the last six months than the previous 5 1/2 years of working as a DBA.  It’s a great community and I talk about the benefits of being involved any time I can.   I still wish Tim could have come along, but I also know that I won’t be feeling as alone.    Maybe when I’m there, I’ll meet someone who hasn’t yet had the chance to get involved in the community and be able to pass this along to them.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: DBAs, Miscellaneous, Personal | Tagged: , , , |

This weekend, one of my co-workers passed away.  He was 33 years old with a wife and toddler at home and a baby on the way.  I didn’t know him well, but we had worked together on a few projects and he was always very knowledgeable, thorough and helpful.  His passing was very unexpected and, as these things do, it caused me to think about my own life and my priorities.

 

Like many DBAs, the servers that Tim and I manage need to be available 24/7.  Tim is on call every third week, but being a lead, he often needs to step in on weeks that he isn’t on call.  I’m the sole DBA at my company.  We’re both proud of being dedicated professionals and we work hard to keep our current systems available as well as keeping our skills updated so that we can provide the best solutions possible.  I firmly believe that we’re setting a good example for our children in showing them the responsibility that we take in our positions.

 

The problem that we both face is in knowing when to step out of our work personas and focus on our family.  Tim is an excellent father and I work hard to be a good mom, but I know that there are many times that I’m talking about work, thinking about work, worrying about work when I should be more engaged as a wife and mother.  While I know that we both provide benefit to our businesses, I also recognize that, if we left, we would be replaced and work would continue as usual.  The time and effort that we put into our time together and our time as parents will shape all of us for the rest of our lives.

 

There isn’t an easy solution to this problem.  It’s not always that simple to walk out the door (especially for Tim, who works at home) and turn off the DBA part.  There will be times that I need to focus on an issue even after leaving work in order to sort it out, but I’m going to make the effort to do that only when it’s necessary.   I need to keep in mind that my first job is to take care of my family.  If I do that, the rest of life will work itself out.

A co-worker of mine had the following saying up on their wall:

 

                              Remember, the people that you work for are waiting for you at home.

 

I need to keep that in mind.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: DBAs, Miscellaneous, Personal | Tagged: , |

Being a helper

28 September 2009
They looked a little happer than this

They looked a little happer than this

Last Sunday, Tim and I started a four week session helping out the 4th and 5th grade Sunday School class at our church.  Our church prefers that there is more than one adult in each class and we’re switching off every four weeks with another member of the congregation.  Helping out in a Sunday School class is something that we had talked about doing for quite awhile.

 

During the class, the main instructor was in her groove.  She’s been teaching this class for some time and the kids are used to her and the curriculum.  While I know that it was helpful that we were there (at least in the kid wrangling department), I wasn’t sure that we were making that much of a difference.  We sat with the kids, played games with them, sang with them, but pretty much followed the teacher like they did.  I wondered (and I think that Tim did as well), if our being there mattered.

 

Before I go on, let me be clear on something.  We didn’t volunteer to help for the fame or glory or high-fives or whatever else volunteering for a Sunday School class might get you.  We know that it’s our responsibility and our honor to serve.  We’re also fallible humans…

 

In any case, after Sunday School, we went to the church service.  While we were there, I saw a couple of the students from class and they gave me huge, beaming smiles.  That’s when I remembered – the kids don’t measure what you did or how you did it, but that you took the time to be with them.  I thought back to when I went to Sunday School and, although I can’t remember who did what, I do remember the ‘grown-ups’ that participated.  I remembered thinking that it was great that they wanted to help us to learn. 

 

I’m glad that we’re taking part in this class and working with these kids.  The smiles from the kids are perks that you never get at the workplace.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: Miscellaneous, Personal | Tagged: , , |