Gabby & Scott's First Annual Christmas Letter/
New Year's Update Holiday Spectacularama

 Merry Christmas, from a husband and wife perspective.  Gabby and I are typing a joint Christmas Greetings/Year-In-Review letter this year.  Neither of us could relinquish full “correspondence control” to the other, so we’ve compromised with a combined effort.  We’ll see how it goes.  One thing is for sure, this letter will be long and rambling.  However, the joint letter does beg the question, “Can our brief yet happy marriage survive a collaborative project such as this?”  We’ll let you know how it all turned out when we send out our “Merry Christmas 2003 Year-In-Review” letter.  I now reluctantly pass control to my lovely wife.  We'll see if we can stay out of each other's bidniss.

 Greetings wonderful friends and family!

 I get to go first because I’m THE girl!

We hope this letter finds you happy, healthy and warm!  I know we live in Texas and shouldn’t complain but I’ve already had to wear my “big jacket” twice this season!  Sheesh!  Are you guys ready for Christmas?? I am!  I can’t wait.  We pulled out the Christmas music and listened to it on the way to Houston for Thanksgiving.  It’s true.  Scary.  But true. 

 Since I don’t think our lives over the last year are any surprise to most of you (we got engaged, got married and now here we are getting ready for our first married Christmas) I thought I’d share some little tidbits from the last couple of months.  So here goes, my first attempt at the Scott-esque letter.  It is sure to be totally overshadowed by his past feats (for many reasons really that I won’t go into here) but I’ll do my best. 

“Three Months of Marital Bliss 
and Counting” 

by Gabby Dannemiller

I think every girl dreams of the perfect proposal and wedding day and I have to say, he done GOOD!  I can’t complain.  The 20-page proposal story is really true and the wedding, well, we like to think it was the MOST FUN WEDDING in the HISTORY of all weddings.  Scott likes to say, “People clapped louder when we were announced than at ANY other wedding I have ever been to.”  We've posted wedding pics on the site if anyone cares to take a look at 'em.  Yes, we have illusions of grandeur but you knew that already.  So now, here we are, only three months in and things are changin’.  That’s right Mom (both of you), here it comes.  We’re settling in and Life’s already working on bringing me back to reality. 

 It is common knowledge to most people that you keep the top of your wedding cake to eat on your one-year anniversary for good luck.  I personally don’t really have a solid opinion on whether or not this is true, but why risk it, right?  Wrap that bad boy up and put him in the garage freezer for safekeeping!  Scott thinks this is a great idea the day after the wedding.  “It’ll be good!  I can’t wait for the year to be up because I love cake”, Scott swoons.  I, on the other hand, being more of a Salty than a Sweet have no real emotion tied to eating a one-year-old-once-frozen cake but think, “hey, it’s tradition, it’ll at least make for a good story”.  Uh…. yeah…. Until two weeks ago when Scott begins the Cake Campaign.  If it weren’t for the fact that he was busy starting up his consulting business (more on that later) I would have bet money he would have made signs and picketed the kitchen.  Scott decided that cake needed to be eaten, yes, but instead of next Sept 7th, 2003, it needs to be NOW.  Has he no scruples when it comes to sweets? 

My answer is this: if a naked semi-attractive woman ever comes to our front door when I am not home with an ice cream cake in her hands, I’d be in trouble.  So, we ate the cake.  Or should I say, Scott ate 98.5% of the cake top and I had a piece?  (Yes, this is what I should say because, it is true)  Mmm yummy 3-month-old cake except without the side of good luck.  

 And then a couple of days ago, on our way to do some much-needed Christmas shopping, we’re driving down the road and I mention to Scott that a friend’s recently widowed father is dating after only 6 weeks.  I say, “I can understand that maybe he’d done some grieving before she died because she was sick for a long time, but Wow.. That seems fast.”  My sweet husband gazes lovingly into my eyes and says, “Yeah, if you died, that’s probably what I’d do... Start dating right away that is.”   Ahh, he’s still so romantic!  (Scott here:  "I gotta' jump in here.  What?  I don't get it?  What's the big deal?  I'd be LOST without you, Gab!  That's what I was trying to say... I think.")

 Ah, the joys of wedded life. 

 Don’t get me wrong, I’m crazy about the guy.  He’s my match.  He makes me laugh when I didn’t think it was possible or practical.  Like last week... we had some bad soup at a local restaurant.  I thought I was about to lose control of my, um, well, let’s just say it was NOT going to be pretty… and he’s cracking jokes even though as soon as we get home we BOTH race to the bathroom.  He’s lovable and talented and sweet too.  Just the other day, he put up our Christmas lights so he could surprise me because I was so sad that we were living in a Grinch house (more on that later, Scott will elaborate). 

 And, it’s been really great having a stay-at-home husband.  Scott used to always laugh at me when I said I wanted to be a stay-at-home single person and now, he’s living my dream… except we’re married.  For those of you that don’t know, Scott was laid off in October and it was a great opportunity for him, so he took it.  He started his own company and has named it Cornerstone Learning and Development.  He’s specializing in training, web conference and e-learning.  He has one client so far and the bids are coming in.  He’s been very busy which has cut down significantly on his laundry efficiency but it’s for a good cause so he’s excused!  In the interim, his services are being marketed at www.characterofexcellence.com until he can get his own website up and running. (You'll see his cheesy picture and bio under the "Facilitators" link).  Other than that, he’s been a marvelous cook, grocery shopper, masseur and dog feeder/dog feet cleaner. 

 In other news, I recently got a new job within Dell!  YAY!  This is a very good thing.  I’m now a program manager, but called a “deployment manager”, assisting customers install Dell/EMC equipment into their storage area network environments blah, blah, blah.  Now I won’t have to quit my job to keep my sanity and we’ll get to stay in our house instead of having to move into my sister’s Westfalia VW bus for lack of any income. 

 We are also moving forward with our plans to take a year off and embark on a service mission trip.  In fact, we will be going to Guatemala in February for an 11-day mission to help install two computer labs and distribute 1200 reading glasses to women who can no longer see to thread needles.  This directly hurts their ability to make a living. Can you believe how much little things can mean in an impoverished country?  It’s truly unbelievable sometimes. 

 So, keep us in your prayers as we turn in our applications, sell our house and start selling cars and putting stuff in storage.  We will be depending on all of you for letters and emails and care packages filled with things like Twinkies and books and other comforts of home.  ETA is August if all goes as planned. (PLEASE NOTE: This is Gabby Confidential.  No need to tell anyone you know at Dell. Thanks!)

 

“The Griswald, um... er... I mean, Dannemiller Christmas”

by Scott Dannemiller

From my perspective, our Holiday Season has been happy and bright.  Unfortunately, “bright” is not a word I would use to describe my own holiday decision-making.  You see, Gabby has been hinting pretty hard that she wanted some “Christmas cheer” decorating the front of our house.  I, on the other hand, was too focused on clearing the leaves from our front yard.  My time was consumed with raking and bagging so to maintain my “Yard Of The Month” look.  Sure… most of you think the yard fairies sleep in the winter.  I say Yuletide lawn maintenance is what separates the men from the boys.  But that’s another story altogether.

 The problem is, while I raked, my two neighbors (yes… one of them is the one who stole my Yard Of The Month glory this past summer) decorated in force.  By the end of the weekend, they had erected shrines to Santa Claus that Buddah himself would be jealous of (Gabby here: Can I just comment here? Why would Buddah care?  He doesn’t even celebrate Christmas.  Okay.. keep reading).  In fact, I believe The Fat Man’s elves are now required to bow toward my neighbor’s house each day at 4pm to pay homage.  It’s truly embarrassing.  

 Not wanting to be outdone, I decided to break out my Christmas Light collection and do my best for St. Nick.  I have a respectable conglomeration of red lights.  By themselves, they give off a glow that reminds one of the seedier side of Amsterdam.  When I mix in a white icicle light or two, they radiate a sort of “candy cane” elegance that is befitting a proper Christmas display.

 While Gabby was out enjoying “Girl’s Night”, I got to work.  I thought it would be nice to surprise her.  She was out with a pal watching “Maid In Manhattan,” which is some chick flick in which, I believe, J-Lo and her abundant backside take over New York City and exact their revenge on anyone who has previously dissed “Puff Daddy”, A.K.A.  “Puffy”  A.K.A. “P Diddy”  Combs.  Anyhow, the movie outing gave me plenty of time to decorate. 

 So, Scott “Light Daddy/L-Diddy” Dannemiller scooped up his massive ball of Christmas lights and began the annual untangling process.  I am convinced that, no matter how careful you are when putting the lights away, when you get them out again the following Christmas, they will look like a gigantic cat swallowed them and then coughed ‘em back up.  Over the next thirty minutes, I yanked, tugged, chewed, pulled, prodded and twisted the light ball until it was untangled.  I grabbed a strand of red lights and got to work.

 In an effort to speed the light hanging process, I nixed the idea of using those little plastic light clips to hang the lights in an orderly fashion.  Instead, I opted for the trusty staple gun.  Sure, it makes about a billion holes in the siding of your house, but there’s something manly about using a device with the word “gun” in its name to fire pieces of metal into wood so your Christmas lights stay put.  Besides, I’ve been told by several men in Texas that if you don’t own a gun, you might as well watch a lot of Will & Grace, run around belting out show tunes, and wear tight pleather pants.  I can proudly say that I prefer “Everbody Loves Raymond”, only sing “Surrey With The Fringe On Top” when crossing the border into Oklahoma, and stay away from tight pants because they enhance my knobby knees.  Still, real, honest-to-goodness, blow-a-bird-to-smithereens guns terrify me.  For this reason, I own only two types of guns - a staple gun and a caulking gun.  For me, this is good enough.  I can SAY that I use a gun and technically not be lying.  As a side benefit, I have found that intruders stay away from homes when the danger exists of being glued to a window seal or tacked to a wall.

 The first three strands of red lights went up like clockwork.  Staples were flying like bullets at a Gangsta’ Rap convention!  I trimmed our entire porch in only 20 minutes.   I plugged the lights in and took a step back to marvel at my handiwork.  When I turned toward the porch my heart sank.  The strand in the middle of the configuration was OUT!  There was a long, dark patch above our front door area.  

 Rather than meticulously plucking each staple out of the wood and gingerly taking down the offending strand, I just grabbed one end of wire and gave it a good hard yank!  Staples went flying!  I lost my balance and broke a couple of bulbs, but the good news is that I now hold the world record for “Fastest Christmas Light Tear-Down.”  I replaced the bad red lights and my porch was trimmed in full.  To avert any further “bad strand” disasters, I decided to plug the lights in as I hung them, so I could see the beauty in progress.  I had about five strands all plugged into the same outlet, ready for display!

 Now came time for the white strand of lights.  I decided to run them along the same path as the red, so to give the “candy cane” appearance.  I had hung about 3 feet of the first white strand when “it” happened. 

I was in a pretty good rhythm with the staple gun.  Stretch.  Place.  Grip.  Squeeze.  Stretch.  Place.  Grip.  Squeeze.  It was getting to be a subconscious activity for me now.  As I held the metal staple gun in my hand, I felt like some robotic Christmas Machine, spreading glad tidings and strands of lights throughout the neighborhood.  Stretch. Place.  Grip.  Squeeze.           Stretch.  Place.  Grip.  Squeeze.          Stretch.  Place.  Grip.  Squee… UNBEARABLE SHOOTING PAIN THROUGHOUT MY BODY!

 You see, what most multi-celled organisms know, but I had to learn the hard way is… using a metal staple gun to tack a LIVE electrical cord to the side of your house is a bad idea.  In a single instant, I became a glowing member of my own Christmas light display.  When the electricity had finally made its way through my body and into my rubber-soled shoes, the circuit shorted out and the porch went dark.  I was left in the blackness, holding on to a slightly warm staple gun and mumbling, “drrruhhhhh…. Uggggrrrrhhhh…. Gggzzzsmft…. Krisssss-musssss-lightssss-bit-me.”  I couldn’t tell if the burning smell was the outdoor outlet that my six fried strands of lights was plugged into, or if it was my now toasty boxer shorts.

 I looked down to reveal the root of my problem.  In my haste to hang the white strand, I misfired, sending a ¾” inch metal staple through the green plastic coating of the wire, directly into the copper, and then into the wood.  The result is a new verse to “The Christmas Song.”

 

Scott's rump roasting on a ‘lectric cord.  Jack Frost nipping at your nose.”

 

I shook off the jolt fairly well.  My right arm still throbbed, but I was undeterred!  After 45 minutes of searching, I finally found the circuit breaker box in the back yard.  I flipped every breaker four times in an effort to resurrect the shorted circuit.  I felt like George Clooney in an episode of ER, flipping the switch and then going to the front yard to see if the lights would come back on.  “Live, LIVE!  LIVE!” I shouted.  Still, nothing plugged into the outlet would breathe. 

 Looking at the kitchen clock, I finally called it.  Time of death… 12:00.  Blinking 12:00.  Every freakin’ clock in the house, now blinking 12:00!

 In the end, I found another live outlet and revived my Christmas light-hanging quest.  This time, the lights stayed unplugged, and I was careful with my aim.  However, the surge of live electricity through my body shorted out my grand designs to create a Christmas Light mecca on my front porch.  When Gabby arrived home, she found every clock reset, and two strands of lights ringing our front door.  Tasteful, yet elegant.  She said, “Thanks honey!  I was hoping you would hang some lights!”.  Turns out she was quite happy with the “Less Is More” concept.  Who woulda’ known. 

So… that’s my Christmas story.  God Bless each and every one of you this Holiday Season.  Here’s wishing you peace and happiness.  My holiday jolt has left me philosophical.  As I type this letter with my left hand, my thought is this….  In this season of gifts, stress, and commercialism, I pray that we can all remember the reason for the celebration and (pun intended)…

 

“Stay Grounded!”

 

 ~~ Much love to all and God bless!  The Dannemillers