The Gudgel Family Advent Calendar, Day 12 — “Passion”

Yesterday, out of the blue, I heard from a former student with whom I hadn’t communicated in many months. She sent me this:


The young lady who sent this to me was one of my best and brightest, and I was so grateful that she took the time to share that with me. I was reminded that being a good teacher, if indeed I am, is easy when one has good students. She, like many others, wanted to be there, and wanted to learn what I was trying to teach her. Great students, and I have had many, inspire us to share our passions with them, to delve beyond the realm of content matter and into the marrow of life. Further, messages like this one affirm that what we’re doing makes and impact, and hearing from former students is one of the great joys of my life.


I was pleased that the message that reminded her of me spoke of passion, as my passions — specifically for human rights, are something I strive to share with kids as often as I can.  Tomorrow after school, my old friend Paul is going to come speak to a student group I sponsor about combatting sex trafficking in Nebraska. This is a tee-shirt for the organization he founded, called I’ve Got a Name. I’m excited for the Aegis Students group and I to hear what he has to say.

Sonja has spent the past two weeks trying to get the lights to work on the Christmas tree. She recruited help from our friend Todd, and has been tinkering with the tree off and on since we put it up right before Thanksgiving. Then yesterday she had a breakthrough idea and added lights to the tree. The results were stunning:


I used to wonder what — if anything, Sonja was truly passionate about. While my own passions manifest themselves into my career in many ways, Sonja never really seemed to have that thing that drove her, that kept her up at night. She seemed to me to be quite complacent, content to simply move forward with the flow of traffic. It was something I couldn’t identify with at all, and sometimes, it drove me crazy.

Over time, however, I’ve come to recognize that Sonja is extremely interested in the way things work. While I would call a plumber so that I could get back to my work as fast as possible, Sonja would pull up a youtube channel and learn to snake a drain. She’s the oe who fixes our television and who set up the internet. She got the remote control working on the fireplace the other day, and she programs the keyless entry on our house. She spent two weeks messing with the Christmas tree and tried a lot of different things, but she got there, and I have come to admire her approach to life.


The other thing Sonja is quite clearly passionate about, and this is a place of common ground for us, is our kids. Titus and Zooey are amazing in so many ways — I know the parents out there can identify with that statement. We are always in awe of them. The other day Zooey, now about eighteen months, was counting to five in the back seat when I put her in after daycare, and on the drive home Titus and I were singing “Jingle Bells” and she would chime in “hey!” at the end after sleigh. Titus loves to read, and is starting to use the potty on his own. I know all little kids have triumphs, but these are the two Sonja and I are passionate about, and sharing that passion is a tremendous gift to our marriage.

Yesterday after school, I had a meeting with a young man who shares a number of my passions. We met up at Corkscrew and split a bottle of wine, and there spoke about our dreams and hopes for the future in one particular arena in life. We were merely sharing ideas at the moment, though I find being around someone who shares a particular passion with you to be invigorating and inspiring. It’s a lot like wine used to be for me — I’d meet up with other people who wanted to geek out about every little nuance and together we’d talk and sip for hours. These days, I do less and less of that, perhaps for want of time, though in truth it may be in some ways that the passion itself is beginning to fade.


The wine we shared was Turley’s entry level Zinfandel, a 2015 Old Vines. At right around $25, it has a solid QPR. Varietally correct but in no way hyperbolic, the wine was smooth and silky with notes of dry red cherry, red currant, and raspberry jam.  Medium plus acidity, it was clearly fruit-forward, and I suspect the structure was enough to make it last for a while, though I don’t see any reason to cellar this one. Enjoy it now if you’ve got one. Turley’s terrific wines aren’t hard to find.

I’m thankful to have discovered what Sonja’s passions are in life, and thankful to share our most significant one with each other. Similarly, I’m grateful to know what my passions are, and to sense that they may even be evolving. Knowing what you care the most about to me provides a heightened sense of purpose, and feeling as if I have purpose helps keep me going everyday. It is something I am most grateful for. I hope that you, too, feel a sense of purpose in what you do, and are in tune with your own passions. What an amazing gift that is.

Cheers to being passionate,


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