Excuse the length of this story, as it was mainly typed for posterity’s sake. Lord knows we’ll all forget the details in the future. I’ll call this my "Microsoft Word Memory" of the event. Warning: If you didn’t make it through Scott’s First Annual New Years’ Update Letter, you haven’t got a prayer with this one.


The Ring



Dateline 11/28/2001

Loosely transcribed from an AOL Instant Messenger chat between Scott Dannemiller and Miranda Walker, Gabby Kubo’s pal.

Scott: "Miranda… I need your help with something."

Miranda: "No problem! What is it?"

Scott: "Can you keep a secret?"

Miranda: "SURE!"

Scott: "I mean… can you keep a secret, better than you kept it when I told you about Gabby’s ‘anniversary’ gift last month when you told her… ‘You’re getting a surprise, and I know what it is!

Miranda: "No problem! Lips are zipped!"

Scott: "That’s right Walker… no blabby-blabby to Gabby. Capiche?!"

Miranda: "Not a word."

Scott: "OK then… I need your help picking out a ring for Gabby."

Miranda: "Is this a "oh… isn’t that a sweet Christmas present" ring or an "OH MY GOD" ring.

Scott: An "OH MY GOD" ring."

Miranda: "OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! I think I’m going to cry!"

Scott: "Don’t cry… I need you to remain focused. No going wacko like the chick who gets axed in the first 15 minutes of a horror flick."

Miranda: "No I’m fine. I’m just SOOOO EXCITED!"

Scott: "Cool! This is going to be fun!"

Miranda: "I know. You are by FAR the best, handsomest, cutest, most talented, charming, intelligent, caring, generous, sensitive (yet manly) guy she has ever dated! Much better than all those other losers, including George Clooney and Brad Pitt! George couldn’t dance, and Brad had funny shaped toes. What a lucky girl she is! We should ALL be so lucky!"



OK… so that last line is how I remember it. Maybe Miranda would have a different story, but mine is the one to believe. Anyhoo.

That’s right. I had fallen head-over-heels and it was time to take the plunge. The only problem? I wanted it to be a surprise. What this means is that I was going to trust myself to pick out the ring Gabby will be wearing for the rest of her life, or until she hocks it at age 50 when my business idea to bring back twist beads, jelly shoes, and leg warmers falls short of success. Therefore, Miranda was my necessary (and willing) accomplice.

The one thing I had going for me was that Gabby can be a bit clueless to things at times. Often preoccupied with remembering everyones’ birthday, anniversary, and lost tooth, …looking for ways to help friends, and striving for world peace, she tends to think of anything but herself. Therefore, when presented with an obvious ploy to find out what kind of diamond she likes, she would dismiss it as "weird" and go about her business.

So, the plan was set. I went out and bought a "Weddings" magazine, and met Miranda for lunch. We looked through rings together, then devised a plan to "stash the magazine out in the open" at her house. When Gabby came over, she would see the magazine. Simple and foolproof.

To a woman, a wedding magazine is like a chocolate éclair to a Richard Simmons’ ‘Deal-A"Meal’ program dropout. They can’t resist. So… the magazine was placed… Gabby was invited over for a ‘Girls Night’ consisting of Ally McBeal and a good discussion of ‘Which Ben Do You Think Is Hotter – Ben Affleck or Ben Bratt?’ Miranda worked her magic. By the end of their "Girls Night", I had some solid ring preferences. To make a long story even longer… I ended up having the ring made on a business trip to California, since nothing local seemed to fit the bill, and I thought Gabby would like the idea that a slightly artsy/effeminite Spaniard named Victor crafted her ring by hand. ("Eet weel be beee-yooooo-teee-foooool. No thing but dah-ee-mond. Dainty-Dainty-Dainty!).

As an aside… it took me two months to make this decision, so Miranda’s task of keeping her trap shut until the big day became overly taxing. I gave her permission to tell one friend. I think this little "relief valve" may have been the only thing to keep her from spontaneously combusting.


The Plan

Now… there are numerous ways for a guy to propose.

Option #1: Lean over during a "Matlock rerun" commercial break and say, "So… you wanna’ do this or not?"

Verdict? Too abrupt… plus… the afterglow tears might cause me to miss the thrilling conclusion of episode 79, "Andy Griffith-like Lawyer Solves Big Mystery, Then Has Dinner at Luby’s".

Option #2: Get down on one knee at nice restaurant after she fishes ring out of chocolate éclair.

Verdict? I have bad knees due to arthritis and could potentially forget the "secret ring placement," and ingest it instead. Bad idea.

Option #3: Cook up an elaborate engagement scheme which is soooo complicated, not even McGyver could pull it off without an emergency trip to Home Depot.

Verdict? Sounds like my kinda’ plan.

So… I cooked up several ideas involving renting out movie theaters, performing at open mike night’s in town, planning a huge karaoke outing, and painting overpasses. All of these were bounced off of Miranda for the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. She would then elicit feedback from Gabby in a stealthy way. We come to find out that Gabby isn’t into public proposals, nor would she appreciate her name painted alongside a gang tag which reads… "Don’t $#!% With The West Side Locos!"

So… after much thought (whilst seated at my computer not working), I concocted a plan. The description of Valentines’ Day 2002 is a detailed account (is there any other type of account?).


Valentine’s Day 2002 (The Way It Was Supposed To Work)

Prior to "the big day", I began sending "Rebus Valentines" to Gabby. They were all pretty cheesy, and looked like this:


Can you figure it out? "Ewe R Two Sweet Four Words" I know… it takes some time. Anyhow… she received about a zillion of these goofy e-cards which annoyed her to no end, I’m sure. The whole plan was to prep her brain for the elaborate "Scavenger Hunt O’ Love" that she would be participating in on Valenine’s Day. While having beers with the guys during the downtown Austin Mardis Gras celebration, I described my plan to them as this:

  1. Send her tulips at work. The card would read, "Go home to find your first gift clue, which tells where to meet me at 6:00!"
  2. She comes home to a trail of rose petals leading from her front door to the bedroom. On the bed, is a new Valentine’s outfit and a Rebus clue, telling her to meet me at our "First Date Restaurant" That is… if she can figure out the clue. Otherwise, I’m waiting patiently at the restaurant at 6:00, and she thinks the clue was to meet me at a Bar Mitzvah in San Antonio or something.
  3. She arrives at the restaurant. I am waiting for her at the same table we first ate at, with a bottle of the same wine we had that night for dinner. At the end of the meal, the waitress brings Clue #2, another rebus puzzle, telling her to drive us both to "Our Coffee Shop" for dessert.
  4. At the coffee shop, when we’re paying, the cashier says, "You must be Gabby! I have something for you!" and hands her rebus Clue # 3. This clue tells her to drive us to the photo booth at Chuy’s restaurant where we had out first "photo booth" picture taken. Cute… I know. We go to Chuy’s.
  5. In the photo booth, we take a couple of pictures. There she finds Clue #4. This tells her to drive us to the location of our first kiss, which is a hotel in Austin. (Get your minds out of the gutter people! I was in town for a friends’ wedding, and after the wedding, she dropped me off at the hotel. SHEESH!)
  6. At the hotel, the front desk receptionist has a package waiting for Gabby. It’s clue #5, along with my guitar. We go to a romantically lit spot in the hotel lobby and I sing her a song I wrote for her. She gets all weepy and falls in love with me all over again (at least that’s the plan). Clue #5 is another rebus which reads "Lakeway Inn." This is her clue that we’re staying at the resort on Lake Travis. We drive there.
  7. When we arrive at the hotel, we go into the room. Inside the room, the fire is lit, champagne is chilling, and chocolate-dipped strawberries are ready for eating. On the sofa are the four final clues (to be shown later in this novel.) I propose. She says yes. All is well.

The perfect plan, right?


Valentine’s Day 2002 (The Actual Story)

I’m not much for organization, and tend to be a little sketchy on details (note my remembrance of the IM conversation with Miranda earlier). When I get excited about things, I tend to overlook important details and focus on the not-so-important ones. This is not a strength when planning an elaborate proposal. So… for example… I thought of this great plan in my head, and spent LOADS of time thinking about how to create the rebus puzzles, and how cool they would look when printed out all in color and bound in a nice 3-ring binder. (Yes… I AM a corporate trainer). I also spent a lot of time telling some of my friends about the plan, and throwing Gabby off the trail (planting seeds to make her think she was getting a locket for Valentine’s Day – she hates lockets). I also spent lots of time patting myself on the back and telling myself how very cool I was, and how Gabby wouldn’t be able to resist my charms. Nothing like arrogance to put you in your place. All good things, mind you. However, what I failed to do was…

  • Allow plenty of time to have the ring made
  • Make reservations at our "first restaurant"
  • Make sure that "Our Coffee Shop" would be open at night.
  • Memorize the song I wrote for her.
  • Remember that Gabby is not a history buff (makes sense later)
  • Correctly remember the location of our "First Kiss."

So… the way the day REALLY went was like this.

  1. Valentine’s Day is the busiest day of the year for florists. Most tackle the day like Mr. Rogers’ Speedy Delivery on crack. They load up the van with arrangements at about 4:00 am, then finish their last delivery at 7:00pm. In between, the flowers are gently banged and sloshed about in maddening Austin traffic, while being lovingly cared for with dry re-circulated van heat and a side order of Aerosmith playing on the van radio. Translation: I call Gabby at 2:30 and ask, "So… did you get something from me today?" She replies, "No… but I guess it won’t be a surprise now." Surprise ruined. Strike one for Scott. The flowers finally get there at 4:30, sending my wife-to-be into a slight panic as she now knows she has to get home, get freshened up, solve a clue, and meet me somewhere at 6:00. STRESS!

    Clue #1: "Meat Me At Photo Booth"
  2. Like the florist, Valentine’s Day was a busy day for me, too. I knew I was gonna’ have to drive all over creation to plant all these "clues". So, as soon as Gabby left for work that day, I went to her house to set up. I had "Our Song" repeating in the CD player. My plan was also to have a totally new outfit for her. I bought the top in California, and was looking for a new black skirt or new pair of black pants to match (I’m sooo fashion-conscious). Well… one day when looking through Gabby’s closet, I noticed that she already owns nothing short of 15 pairs of black pants, and 4 black skirts (another detail that had escaped me before). So… scratch that idea. The solution? Lay ½ of a new outfit on her bed along with the black skirt she likes best (I am smart enough to know that the one SCOTT likes best would be too trashy for this occasion. In fact… it’s in her closet, but I’ve NEVER seen her wear it)

    Next… I lay out the rose petals trail in hopes that they won’t wilt between 9am and 5pm. I did a small "Bill Nye The Science Guy" experiment at my house and left out a couple of sample petals for 14 hours. The red petals held up well. The white petals looked a bit like dried apple slices after that time. My only concern was that Gabby might arrive home from work hungry and start "snackin’ on my petal trail." She’s into all things organic, but I thought it was a risk worth taking. Setup complete… almost!

    Before leaving to plant the clue at the coffee shop, I realized that she might want a snapshot of this before the petals wilted. So… I frantically ran to the Wag-A-Bag up the street (I’ve boycotted Texaco… another story) and picked up film. The mad dash back to Gabby’s house yielded a few photos that are OK. Nevertheless, the moment has been captured for posterity’s sake, and I’m now dangerously late for a work appointment at 9:30am. Still… there’s time to get to the coffee chop to make my drop before work must begin. (Yes… I DO have a job – a very flexible one).
  3. I arrive at the coffee shop, nearly sweating. Once inside, I debate whether or not I should just stash the next clue in between some books at the back of the shop, or leave it with the cashier. My criteria was, if the cashier was a big burly guy who would laugh in my face and call me a weenie for being so cheesy – I leave it in the books. If the cashier is a) sweet old lady, b) cute girl, or c) old man – I leave it with them. They’d think I was "sweet" or something.

    So… I go to the cashier. It’s a zit-faced 17-year old with bed-head. Hmmmm… hadn’t anticipated this one. What to do? I go for it.

    Scott: "Hey, I’m sending my girlfriend, Gabby, on a scavenger hunt of sorts tonight. Would it be OK if I left this behind the counter for her?

    Screech: "Dude… what time?"

    Scott: "I dunno. Probably 8:00 or so."

    Screech: "Dude. You can bring her here, but we won’t be open. We close at 6:00."

    Scott: "DOH!"

    So… foiled yet again. This was not the first time I had been duped in my plan. If you’ll remember, I had hoped to take Gabby to "our first restaurant" and sit at "our first table" and drink "our first wine". Well… I went to the restaurant a week before to make reservations. There, I was told that they were totally booked, and I could either eat dinner at 10:00pm (resulting in Gabby being in a state of 100% drooling sleep by the time the actual proposal rolled around), or be placed on a hopeless waiting list, already 17 names deep. So… I got to exercise my Plans B and C skills.

    Plans changed, and I had Gabby meet me at Chuy’s (which happens to be her favorite restaurant, but not romantic IN THE LEAST!) So… thumbs up on the food, thumbs down on coziness. I wound up waiting in that photo booth for Gabby, right next to a family party of 7. The dad was ultra-pissed because his 6-year-old daughter had just plunged her fist right into a bowl of salsa, and wiped it off on her "pretty new Valentine dress!" At least the reds matched.

    While some males would see this as a terrifying vision of their future (replacing that vision of them driving the Porsche down a winding mountain road with a babe on-arm), I stood fast. No running scared like a 3rd grade girl for me! I’m committed!

    Luckily, Gabby arrived on cue, we took our photo booth snapshot and had a wonderful dinner and conversation. She looked REALLY HOT in the new blouse I bought her (wait… Gabby’s mom might ready this). She looked absolutely stunning in her new outfit. At the end of the dinner, our waitress brought us the bill, and Gabby’s next clue (the one that said we should go to our coffee shop). She solved the clue without much trouble. Once she figured it out, I had to break the news to her that it was closed. HOWEVER, in my stealthiness, after my work meeting, I tracked down another coffee shop and planted the clue. Off we go!

    Clue #2: "Our Coffee Shop"
  4. The visit to our new coffee shop was rather uneventful. The only problem was that the girl who I had left the clue with was nowhere to be found. So, when paying for our dessert, I asked the cashier if she happened to have a package behind the counter for a Gabby Kubo. She looked at me with a wondering eye and said "I don’t think so, but let me check." She then looks behind the counter and finds the envelope. She handed it to me as if I was MAGIC! (How did THAT get back here?!) So, I told her that she might also find cats sleeping in her car engine, as well as a roll of quarters in her dirty laundry basket. Probably kept her brain busy most of the night.

    Clue #3: "Our First Kiss."

    Gabby opened up the next clue (Our First Kiss) and solved it instantly. Then she says to me:

    Gabby: (With a REALLY disgusted look on her face) "So we’re going to Polyester’s?" - Polyesters is a semi-seedy 70’s and 80’s themed dance club where we went after the wedding where we met. -

    Scott: "No… why would we go to Polyester’s?"

    Gabby: "Because that’s where you first kissed me."

    Scott: "No it wasn’t"

    Gabby: " Yes it was."

    It seems that my "liquid confidence" the night of our friend Jason’s wedding (Damn that open bar!) gave me the courage to plant a lip-lock on her whilst groovin’ on the dance floor. I must have been too wrapped up in my Soul Train routine to remember. Talk about a bone-headed move! Just call me Mr. Romance!

    Scott: "Oh… is that so. Well… let’s go where we had our second kiss instead."

    Gabby: "The hotel?"

    Scott: "That’s right."

    At this point, Gabby’s wondering what’s going on. Now… I don’t think she believes a proposal is on the way, ‘cuz both of us are a bit manic about the gift-giving during any holiday. But, she may be questioning my choice of "next stop." The hotel that we’re traveling to next isn’t exactly the nicest place in town. If the thrilling conclusion to this "Valentine’s surprise" is a night of traffic noise and free HBO, she’s not too excited. Still, she humors me and we make our way to the hotel.
  5. Once at the hotel, I ask her to go to the front desk and ask if they have anything for Gabby Kubo. This time, the girl at the front desk is on the ball. She hands Gabby her next clue, and I grab the guitar from behind the desk. She figures out the clue without much trouble. The next order of business is to sing her the song.

    When I try to lead us to the quiet corner of the lobby (which was empty that afternoon), I find some non-english speaking staff who are cleaning while watching NBC’s Olympic coverage at 150 decibels. I decide that this isn’t the environment for belting out my new love song to Gabby. Time for plan D. Must find new location! Gabby suggests going out by the pool, and I follow. It’s south Texas, and it’s 60 degrees, so this is actually a good plan.

    Once out by the pool, Gabby opens the guitar case and finds the words to the song I’ve written. My original plan was to give her the lyrics later as a gift. The problem was that I didn’t memorize the song too well, so I needed the pages as a "cheat sheet." She didn’t seem to mind. So I sang her the song. Once I finished, she gave me a big hug and a kiss. It was very sweet. A perfect moment… that is… until a breeze blew the "cheat sheets" into the pool and I nearly knocked Gabby into the kiddie pool trying to chase them down. So much for keeping them in pristine condition! Luckily, I was able to fish them out before too much damage was done.

    Before leaving for the Lakeway Inn, I stealthily called "The Inn" from the hotel bathroom and told them to have the fire going in our room by the time we arrived. Pretty sneaky, eh?

    Clue #4: "Lakeway Inn"

  6. When I told some of my coworkers that I was taking Gabby to a nice, romantic hotel room to propose, their response was…

    "Boy… you’re pretty optimistic then, eh?"

    As we drove up to our bungalow (I had already checked in earlier in the day to plant a few things in the room), I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if she said "NO." My plan E in this case was simple. Cry. Call a cab. Send Gabby home. Call my friends and invite them to the lake. Drink the entire bottle of champagne in 5 minutes. Eat myself sick on chocolate-dipped strawberries, and wait for my pals to arrive with a 12-pack of "fixer-elixir." I genuinely hoped it wouldn’t come to this. I took a deep breath… talked myself up (I’m good enough, smart enough, and gosh-darn it… people like me!) and escorted her into the room.

    The fire was crackling (as much as one of those particle board firelogs can crackle), the curtains were drawn showing a view of the lake, and my last four clues were tucked away in envelopes on the couch. It was the perfect setup. However, I noticed that the champagne and strawberries hadn’t made it to the room. I called the front desk and asked them to deliver them immediately. The fiancee-to-be had other plans. While I was on the phone, Gabby, thinking a night at Lakeway Inn was her final gift, began pulling presents out of a bag. She said, "Now it’s your turn!"

    Nine gifts are spread across a large, round coffee table. Each gift is wrapped in silver paper and has various numbers of hearts drawn on it. My job, as dutiful gift-opener, is to pull pieces of paper out of a small bag.  Each piece of paper has a number of hearts written on it.  Next, I  unwrap the gift with the corresponding number of hearts on it. (I TOLD you we were manic about the whole gift-giving thing). Unlike a five-year-old at Christmas who sees gifts under the tree and gets all excited, I instead am thinking, "Holy crap! I have to suffer through opening 9 gifts while agonizing over what my final proposal will sound like!?" Gabby had no clue how tortured I was. Later she would say to me, "NOW I know why you opened those presents so fast! Heck! You would open one, glance at it, say ‘That’s nice’, and move on to the next one. Instead of opening gifts it looked like you were preparing to go to the dentist!"

    After opening all nine gifts (including my three favorites – a miniature mirror ball to accompany my karaoke machine… a Jesus of Nazareth Action Figure with poseable arms and gliding action… and a Hooters’ Gift Certificate – I SWEAR I LOVE Their WINGS!) it was time to talk turkey. Gabby and I sat down on the couch, and I took the four envelopes into my hand. Each of the four was labeled with a different word. When placed in a line, the envelopes
    read "WHY I LOVE YOU." I told her, "I’m really good at writing down how I feel about you, but you rarely get to hear me really SAY it! So… in each envelope is a picture that symbolizes a reason why love you. When we open an envelope, I’ll tell you what the picture inside means."

We open the first envelope. Inside is a picture of ME..

I said, "I love you because you let me be myself. I can be me around you, and you don’t judge me blah blah blah romantic stuff, etc.

Then we open the second envelope. Inside is this picture:

Now Gabby is no history buff. She immediately thinks this is a picture of Ben Franklin and wonders, "How in the hell is he gonna’ symbolize our love with Ben Franklin!"

The rest of us know this gentlemen as William Shakespeare. So I correct Gabby and say, "Shakespeare was a great writer with great inspiration. I have been wanting to write a song for a long time, and you were MY inspiration… blah blah blah romantic stuff, etc."


We open the third envelope to find another pic. I say, "I chose this picture because I love how we can be spiritual together blah blah blah romantic stuff, etc."

The last picture is Dolly the cloned sheep. I tell her, "This is Dolly the cloned sheep, and I picked her because I love how we are SOOOO alike in SOOO many ways blah blah blah romantic stuff, etc.

Now for the clincher! I tell her to close her eyes. She obliges, and I fix the four pictures to a huge piece of foam core posterboard. It’s her final rebus puzzle. Can you figure it out?

That’s right, "WILL EWE MARY ME!" She figured it out pretty quickly. So… with Gabby both laughing and crying, I got down on one knee and popped the question. She said yes before she even saw the ring, so I know she’s a keeper! I was THRILLED, and I think she was, too.

After that, we chilled out, had some champagne, downed some strawberries, and talked about the future. For me, it was the perfect night, and worth every last ounce of effort – especially cuz she said YES! Special thanks to Miranda for all her help. She’s one heck of a gal. Couldn’t have pulled off the surprise without her. I’d also like to thank all the boys for giving me hell for the week preceding the big day. Never before has the trash-talk via e-mail flown so freely.

We’re both really excited about spending the rest of our lives together, even if it does mean that we’ll have to really rack our brains to come up with good gifts by the time we’re 84 or so.

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