December Writing Challenge Wrap-Up: Week 5

Looking back across the month, I’m blown away by the responses. This is nothing new. Each year has been an emotional and emotion-filled exercise in thoughtful exploration and introspection. But to see our community take precious time away from busier-than-usual days has been heartwarming. That each day’s lead article (not to mention the comments that followed) came in the midst of such turmoil only added to the depth and power and impact.

Before my final wrap-up, I need to offer up my heartfelt thanks again:

  • To Danielle, Kevin, Yum, and Olivia—the community team who makes this all possible. Despite the pressing needs of several far more pressing and important activities, they still made space in their schedule for this passion project of mine.
  • To Alli, Alyssa, and Alex (aka “the editorial mega-zord”) who not only graciously took on 36 additional editing tasks but agreed to do them with turn-around times measurable by an egg timer.
  • To Jenne, Courtney, Nicole, and Tiffany—managers who have always given me (and the rest of their respective teams) the space to try new things.
  • To Bradley, Greg, and Eric—part of the incredible and far-too-often-unthanked design team who have arcane powers I can’t even imagine and make literally everything they touch look better.
  • To every single one of the lead writers this year (a full list, along with links to each post, is at the end of this wrap-up). Many took personal time to work on these essays, and opened up with details we don’t usually associate with “typical” conversations between tech pros.
  • Equally, to everyone who left comments—some of you daily! You took this writing challenge to heart and I cannot be more grateful. It’s this level of participation, more than any other, that makes people stand up and take notice.
  • And finally, I’d like to acknowledge and thank everyone who carved time out of their day or week to read what was written. I hope some of what you’ve read this year sticks with you, becomes the seed of an idea you can plant in the fertile ground of your soul, to grow into something awe-inspiring and uniquely your own.

And with that, on to the final wrap-up of 2020. Don’t forget to read to the end for a list of the lead writer for each day along with links to each post.

Adventures in Home Tech Support

For some it’s the bane of working in IT, for others, it’s a boon. What surprised me about THWACK MVP Holger Mundt’s post was how being good at tech was get-out-of-extended-family-time card, and how he’ll miss this opportunity to flex his tech muscles this year.


For me, it’s not just the holidays, I always get the random text messages. I still get them from former employers even. I love to talk tech. I’ve helped and offer to help people with issues, in and out of work. Little did I know that meant a life sentence, but when it’s something you love, it’s no big deal. Most recently, it was, “How do I read a HD that was in a Windows ME machine?” First, I have to admit, I was surprised it had lasted this long, then amazed anyone would still admit to having one. Then, my helpful side came out and I explained the better part of removing the HD and using a USB reader to pull files from it, and all was right in the world.

Rick Schroeder (rschroeder)

Windows Support Dad. Android Support Dad. iOS Support Dad. iPad/iPhone Answer Man. Limited Bandwidth Dispenser Dad. Parental Controls Dad. All-Around-I.T.-Answer-Dad. Spousal I.T. Support Expert. Network Analyst. Information Technology Curriculum Coordinator Dad. Anti-Virus-Anti-Malware-Answer Dad. Security Software Installation Dad.

Those are some of the titles I’ve been given by those around my home. I wear them cheerfully, or, at worst, with a sigh. Perhaps the least popular discovery was when the two teens discovered I had become Bandwidth-Regulator-Dad when they’d begun unlimited A/V streaming for personal entertainment, even leaving their wireless devices streaming in other rooms when they’d be in the bathroom taking a shower, or out in the yard, or at lunch. That meant not a lot of bandwidth available to my wife and I for work, or entertainment. To avoid the seemingly unending trips down to the basement bedroom to ask if one or the other of the teens would kindly stop streaming so Mom and I could pay the bills, I simply applied some QoS at the DSL Gateway. The kids could have 10% of the bandwidth if my wife or I were using the internet. Outside of those times, the kids were welcome to it all. Oh, the ANGST coming from those two teens! Hahaha. The sullen looks. The eyerolls. The sighs. It turns out this is all instinctive behavior by parent and child as part of helping the little ones feel entitled to leave the nest. But they still call me up when they have personal I.T. challenges. “My computer’s slow!” “My phone won’t load apps quickly!” “Why is this happening?” I suppose if they took the time to learn to use Google or YouTube to answer their own questions I’d be out of a job. But calling Dad is so much quicker and easier than reading a technical book or whitepaper explaining what not to do when using a cell phone or notebook. Thank goodness! Otherwise I’d probably never hear from them.


Right now, the only other person living with me is my wife. Do I get plenty of IT questions from her? Yup. Phone not working? Cannot find a printer? Wi-Fi down? Laptop keyboard has a key or two not working? I get the “call.” There was one fellow who used to ask people in my peer group to install and upgrade things on his computers. Several of us would do it occasionally, even though we figured he (the fellow had a chemistry degree and I think multiple graduate degrees) could do it on his own. When he tried to be too demanding, we cut him off. We later found out he could at least use USB media to transfer photos and videos, but that story could lead to discussing some illegal activity for which he went to jail, so we’ll just stop here.

Ending My Doomscroll

Working in IT means there are a lot of things we cannot choose to ignore. That applies to both the “server is down” alert and the “the CEO wants to see you about his nephew’s PC” text. But it doesn’t mean we have to pay attention to EVERY piece of bad news. It was nice to read how my fellow Head GeekTm Chrystal Taylor realized she had a choice.


Thankfully another person that knows FOMO needs to go the way of the DODO. Well said and well done! @ChrystalT We know what the important things in life are. Concentrate on those. The rest is easy. Stay focused! Thank you for this write-up...


I’ve learned to almost but not completely avoid news and social media. Yes, I probably have missed out on some things, but I haven’t wasted a ton of time reading, watching, or listening to the ton of negativity and garbage out there and am much better off for it.

A couple of years ago, I always use to be online FB/twitter/news/chats... but then sooner or later, I realized I had become a robot I decided not to use it anymore and just to avoid this I started using a normal mobile phone for few months. I could only call or receive calls and send out an SMS if required. Post which I completely stopped being active on social media. These days, I rarely check for social media updates (maybe biweekly). News—I spend about 30 mins in a day.

When This Is Over, …

The Writing Challenge is all about expressing yourself, whether in prose or picture or even poetry, which is what Alli chose to do for day 28. In her lead post, she evoked both the yearning and the hopefulness of this moment.

When this is over? I have my own bucket list: Meet all my friends and relatives; Go on a bike trip; Have variety of snack and food (I want to revisit all the restaurants I used to go to); Movies; Vacation (maybe a beach); Office (I’m sure a lot of things would’ve changed); T breaks—lot of discussions over a break; .......... lots more


When this is over, I will go to a movie! Do some traveling including eating out and talking to people along the way, making new friends. I will get out and about, happy and carefree! Hopefully, we will get to that soon!


Hopefully, things will return to some sort of normalcy. I agree with @KMSigma though on the sit down D&D games. I enjoy the virtual game I’m currently involved in but definitely miss the in-person, sit down at a real table with friends, sessions. There’s something very satisfying about rolling real dice that clatters until it lands on a number (it’s even more satisfying when the number is a good one). If anyone is in the Charleston, SC area and would like, I will gladly run a D&D adventure for a night (one-shot). HMU!!!

What I h̶a̶t̶e̶d̶ loved about 2020.

Of everyone involved with THWACKRegistered, nobody understands the history, the character, or the importance of our community like Danielle. She brings her trademark insight along with her sensitivity and passion for her work and weaves it into a post that can help all of us see the good that has come from such a challenging year.


This place—I loved THWACK. Not the platform, or the store, or the missions*, but the people. This community (and this is a community in the truest sense) helped ground me in 2020. Whenever things were going haywire elsewhere, I could always come back to THWACK to recharge, or engage with people, or to offer my knowledge, or just to laugh at the absurdity of the world with other people who were dealing with the same level of crazy. There are old friends here that I’ve never met in person, but I feel like we could share a pint without a hiccough. There are new “faces” each and every day who challenge me to be better, more concise, and technically accurate in all things. There are surprises around every corner because every corner is made up of individual people trying to do better by themselves. That’s a truly magical thing. I count myself among those incredible few people who love their job. This community has helped me discover a passion for teaching and helping others that I never knew before joining up oh so many years ago. A large fraction of my day is spent on THWACK and I couldn’t be happier. Since we couldn’t travel for the SolarWinds User Groups this year, I threw myself into helping in any way possible. Those turned into THWACKcampTm sessions, or SolarWinds Lab episodes, or THWACK Tuesday Tip videos, or long form, detailed posts. Even in these last few stressful weeks, I keep going back to THWACK and the support the community has shown towards us at SolarWinds. I’m excited for 2021 for many reasons, but the biggest one is that I still get to spend a significant part of my day here with you crazy folks.

 * OK—the missions are always fun, but the people are still the best.


What I love in 2020

  1. I was able to maintain my job and provide for my family
  2. I avoided getting sick until recently
  3. THWACK community was awesome this year
  4. Family, Family, Family
  5. I avoided a major computer or home appliance or electronic expense
  6. My truck, and I know this is selfish, but I’ve waited years to get a truck again
  7. The world realized working from home isn’t impossible, it’s productive, and we can succeed even when forced into silos
  8. That no matter how crazy things get, we now all feel like “hey bring it” vs. “oh no”

9.Cooking at home more, and losing weight

  1. A cleaner house—many hands make light work
  2. Everything online—it seems understated, but this year we really did have the opportunity to participate more online than ever before

That’s my list for now. I could’ve stopped at 10, but this list goes to 11.

Monitoring Mixology—Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bourbon

On the eve of New Year’s Eve, my fellow Head Geek offers a simple wish of good cheer by providing a few ideas for some libations.


@sqlrockstar very nice adult beverage choices (going in my new bar recipe list). While I’m a single-malt-scotch-and-craft-beer guy, the Luxury Manhattan recipe will be used for my mom (91 next month—her favorite drink). Happy New Year! Celebrate well!


I’ve found two cranberry wines I absolutely love. CranCab and Ben Lear both from Lake Nokomis Cranberries Winery in Eagle River Wisconsin. They ship and orders come quickly. No mixing required, just pour and enjoy.

What’s the Plural of Apocalypse?

Grace, who tirelessly works behind the scenes to curate IT analysis from around the industry, and then communicate it among the internal teams here so we have a better understanding of which way the tech winds are blowing, uses those same skills to give us a linguistic tour-de-force. It’s a fitting final word to this years’ challenge.


@grace.gilker Brilliant! Thought provoking and funny! What a way to end the year, you put a smile on my face. Whether we use 2020, Corona, COVID-19 or anything else, this year stands on its own as a major interruption to the normalcy of the human race. These terms in the future will invoke memories (good and bad), but all will focus on the heartbreak, loss and chaos we’ve experienced.


I vote for apocEllipsis. Happy New Year!

Date Title Author
Dec 1 Connecting in a Disconnected World Leon Adato
Dec 2

Show Us Your Office Space

Paul Guido (MVP)
Dec 3 Pet Peeves: Home Office Edition Jez Marsh (MVP)
Dec 4 I Was Today Years Old When I Learned Jeremy Mayfield (MVP)
Dec 5 Tonight in Pandemic Viewing... Jenne Barbour
Dec 6 Easy Home IT Upgrades Sascha Giese
Dec 7 Separation Anxiety Olivia Palmer
Dec 8 My New Hobby: Lessons Learned Kevin Sparenberg
Dec 9 I Didn't Think I'd Ever Need __________ Adam Timberly (MVP)
Dec 10 What Day Is It? Mark Roberts (MVP)
Dec 11 Connecting With My Community Chris McManus
Dec 12 Keeping an Active Mind Tom Iannelli (MVP)
Dec 13 Quarantine Cuisine Destiny Bertucci
Dec 14 Am I on Mute? Being Heard While Remote Kathleen Walker
Dec 15 Sweatpants are now business attire Jake Muszynski (MVP)
Dec 16 The Growing Pandemic Family Liz Beavers
Dec 17 Pets on Zoom Peter Di Stefano
Dec 18 Finding Friendship Faria Akram
Dec 19 Overcoming Anxiety Maisie Sackett
Dec 20 Today, I tried... Danielle Livy
Dec 21 Not All Introverts Heart WFH Rebecca Smith
Dec 22 Confessions of a Shopaholic Kim Cecchini
Dec 23 Taking PTO and Going...Nowhere Lisa Sherwin-Wulf
Dec 24 All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go Patrick Hubbard
Dec 25 How to Safely Entertain Guests During a Pandemic Thomas LaRock
Dec 26 Adventures in Home Tech Support Holger Mundt (MVP)
Dec 27 Ending My Doomscroll Chrystal Taylor
Dec 28 "When This Is Over, …" Alli Rael
Dec 29 What I hated loved about 2020 Danielle Gaitan
Dec 30 Monitoring Mixology - Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bourbon Thomas LaRock
Dec 31 What’s the Plural of Apocalypse? Grace Gilker


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