The Gudgel Family Advent Calendar, Day Four — “Doing awesome”

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it: I love it when people ask me “How do you do everything?” If I’m being entirely candid, I tend to work my butt off, I’m interested in a lot of different things, and I don’t mind it when people spontaneously take note of these things. In fact, I get a real kick out of it when people give me a baffled expression when I answer simple questions like “What are you up to these days?” I’m up to quite a lot — though of course I understand that so is everyone else, and I don’t think I’m better than anybody just because I’m busier than some people seem to be. I just don’t dislike being told that keeping so many balls in the air is impressive. It took a lot of practice to be able to do this, and when people aren’t looking I get the dropsies from time to time.


Tonight was one of those nights, I suppose, that makes people ask questions. I spent the day teaching, then got done and skipped two scheduled meetings to meet with a colleague who was damn near at wit’s end after being called a name I won’t reprint by a sixteen-year-old who was clearly not cut out for Honors Algebra. I talked him off the ledge, sent email apologies to the folks whose meetings I’d missed, and went out to chip ice off of my car, nearly falling in the parking lot along the way. I went grocery shopping, got home, unloaded my car, hauled the trash which included an old ottoman and the recycling to the curb, made the guest bed, folded some towels, hauled mail upstairs, did the dishes, replied to some email, filled out a reference for a former student who is applying to teach at the school where she was once my student (goosebumps!) and then went and got the kids. Once I got the little buggers home, I pulled the cork on a bottle of wine and threw together some dinner. We had caramelized baby carrots in a butter, herb, and lavender sauce, and lemon pepper chicken tenders.


Jed Steele’s 2017 Viognier was a terrific pairing with cooking dinner while the kids yelled “more cheese” at me, with the “Asian Zing” sauce I was dipping my chicken in, and with reading stories to my kids long after that. Crisp with a floral nose laced in luscious stone fruits, I was reminded of just how much I like this varietal when it has the benefit of a master vintner to do it justice.  I sipped at the Lake County Viognier off and on for most of the night, eventually choosing to leave it on the kitchen island uncorked as I enjoyed the way the relative warmth of room temperature helped the flavors open up. Fresh out of the refrigerator it was crisp, almost cutting in its acidity, but after a short spell, similar to some of my favorite Chardonnays, it opened up on the palate as it warmed, offering generous notes of soft butterscotch and lemon zest, peaches, pears, and tropical fruits as well. The evidence of oak is undeniable yet unimposing, and in general I find this wine not only beautiful but comparable to the very best manifestations of the varietal that I have ever encountered. I would compare it to Pride’s Viognier, which I have touted as the best I’ve ever had. Presently, this wine isn’t available in Omaha — but I’ll see what I can do to fix that in the months to come.


After dinner we went upstairs to play, and I took my glass of wine. At one point Francisco, the sombrero-wearing Christmas tree who sings “Feliz Navidad” attempted suicide, but I was able to bring him back to life. The kids brushed their teeth, Titus went potty, and we read books until bedtime. Zooey cried until I brought her a book to keep in bed, and Titus cried until I got him a drink of water. Then I went downstairs, made final edits and submitted a paper to the Oxford Journal of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, glanced over an application, and finally sat down to write this post. At one point, Sonja texted to ask if I’d put a nighttime insert in Zooey’s diaper. I may have gotten just a little huffy about the question, my message complicated by bad talk-to-text technology:


This “Gudgel Family Advent” series has been about what I’m thankful for, and I’m especially thankful for words of affirmation about my parenting from the woman I regard as the greatest mommy of all time. It meant a great deal to me to read that simple statement, and it helped me be at ease. I’m also thankful for the support I get from Sonja when she isn’t away on business, as she is this week, which allows me to do so many of the things that I manage to do. Those who express admiration for the balancing act I put on would be wise to recognize that behind every great juggler is an amazing, supportive person who helps with the kids and the laundry and the dishes and the bills, amongst so many other things. I am perhaps most reminded of this on weeks like this one, when Sonja is away.

And so, as I reflect, I am as thankful for the support of Sonja as I am for the multitude of interests — including wine writing, which keep my life so flavorful and rich. I am thankful for the children I get to teach and those I get to raise. I am thankful for the food we had tonight and for the time and wherewithal to prepare it. I am thankful for having met yet another publication deadline, and for the wine I sipped at all night long as all of these things one by one came together. And I am thankful for the opportunity to do it all again, in one way shape or form, tomorrow.

Cheers to getting things done — and to those who support us as we do it,



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