Merry Navidad!

It’s unbelievable that 2005 is coming to an end so quickly.  It seems like just yesterday that we were jobless and homeless in 2003.  We’ve been busy this year and hopefully not all in vain.  God has blessed us richly and continues to help us grow together in faith.

We are still living in our free house thanks to our friends Lisa and Doug.  So far so good, we haven’t burnt it down!  However, the plants and fish in the backyard pond have gone on to meet their maker.  Gabby was busily doing 500 things one morning in August, when she forgot that she put the garden hose in the pond for a quick refill.  

Eight hours later, Scott came home from work to find a marshy back yard and floating fish.  Who knew that they don’t like cold tap water?!  Live and learn.  The good news is, we were able to find similar-looking replacement fish for $0.79.  As soon as we can teach Nemo #2 to fetch, I don’t even think the owners will notice the difference.   

In more serious news, we performed roughly 30 concerts (if you can call them that) in 2005 as SoulWork Ministries.  Granted, some venues were quite small (i.e. The Luther Ridge Retirement Community cafeteria lounge seats about 20, and the attendees tend to nap during the slow parts of the show).  Still, we were able to donate over $10,000 this year as SoulWork Ministries for various charities supporting education, health care and human rights.  Believe us, sometimes writing the checks was hard but we are so glad we did it!  We’ll be slowing down with concerts in 2006 as we try and figure out what direction our nonprofit should take.

As for Gabby, she started school again after 14 years to take a Statistics class (yucko!) at the local community college.  We are happy to report she passed with flying colors!  Unfortunately, her new-found statistics knowledge has not made her any more interested in the useless, trivial facts that Scott stores in his head.

Did you know the shopping cart was invented in Oklahoma City, OK?  Fascinating!

She was taking the course because it is a prerequisite for the Masters in Social Work at the University of Texas.  Due to her intellectual prowess and genuine can-do-anythingness, she was accepted into the program for 2006!  Ordinarily, she would jump at the chance to follow her passion, but God had other plans. 

As you can tell by the photo above, those other plans involve the excitement, intrigue, lifelong anxiety and brief-but-excruciating pain of childbirth!  That’s right, we are due to have our first baby in March!  Baby Boy Dannemiller is due to enter the world on March 30, 2006.  He seems excited too and is kicking a lot to remind Mom of our little miracle to come.  As you might expect, Gabby vetoed the large majority of Scott’s name suggestions, as they reminded her of either a) nicknames for hoodlums in a 50’s biker gang, or  b) Harlem Globetrotters. (What’s wrong with Skeet or Ace, I say?)  Luckily, the list has been whittled down, though we won’t have the final verdict until the kid shows up. 

On the job front, after a long and somewhat lazy search, Gabby got a job at Meals on Wheels and More (MOWAM) as a part-time bilingual case manager.  MOWAM is a local non-profit that provides a nutritious noontime meal to homebound people. Gabby’s job is to go to different clients’ homes to see if they qualify for service and assist them with other needs as they arise.  What qualifies clients?  Are they homebound?  Mentally or physically disable to the extent that they can’t prepare meals?  Are they alone during the day?  Interestingly, there is no income restriction and the service is free to all who qualify.  It’s an awesome organization, and she loves the work, even though it cuts into her valuable social time.  Her experience thus far has been wonderful, and has given her a good perspective on social work and the many nonprofit services available in the Austin area. 

When she’s not at MOWAM or school, Gabby also volunteers at SafePlace, a local domestic violence shelter in Austin.  Here families can find a safe haven from abusers to restart their lives.  It can be very sobering but often it’s much more hopeful than depressing – seeing people overcome their fear of failure and building a new confidence in themselves.  It makes her answering phones and working the security gates seem like a valuable service to the community.

Scott has been busy too -- don’t let him tell you otherwise.  Besides the concerts, he has been acting as the Music & Missions Director for a new church development at Dripping Springs Presbyterian Church.  He leads worship each week with our friend and pastor, Nancy Marroquin and has coordinated several community projects.  It’s a great thing, as it gives him a chance to write new music, and even give a sermon every once in a while, though it’s less hellfire and brimstone and more goofy stories with a rambling point (much like this letter). 

On the missions front, Scott began a relationship between the church and the local food pantry, Helping Hands.  They’re a cool organization that provides food and financial assistance to about 200 families per year who need it most.  He’s had folks participating in fundraisers like the Empty Bowl project, food drives, and even a Christmas gift-giving campaign called Project Elf.    

All of this wonderful work has been a true blessing, but it is a 100-mile round trip, so Scott will be ending his service in January to seek opportunities closer to home.  He’s looking forward to getting involved with a local nonprofit that teaches English classes to immigrant workers at their job site.  It’s through a program called English at Work.  Now, if he can only remember how to say “screwdriver” in Spanish, he might actually be a useful teacher.

In addition, Scott took a leadership role in raising money to support folks in Guatemala who recently suffered devastating losses due to Hurricane Stan.  Over 200,000 people were displaced many of whom lost their home and their jobs due to massive flooding of their home and the agricultural fields where they work.  In partnership with CESSMAQ, a Presbyterian Social Outreach organization, we are looking to support the rebuilding of 33 communities in the Western Highlands of Guatemala.  If you are in town on January 29th at 6:30pm, swing by the 290 West Café in Austin.  Scott and “The Church Band” will be opening for Ruthie Foster for a benefit concert.  All proceeds go to the relief efforts.  If you drop a few bucks into the donation bucket, you might even get Scott to throw you a sweaty towel or guitar pick as a souvenir.  They’re HOTTTTT on E-bay!

As far as a job, Cornerstone Learning and Development is up and running again, and things are going well enough that Gabby should be able to stay home with the baby (so long as grocery stores still sell Ramen noodles and Vienna Sausages).  Scott has decided his favorite boss, besides the big guy upstairs, is himself.  As a corporate trainer/consultant he will have more flexibility (he can almost touch his toes) and more time with family.  Though the job will require him to travel from time-to-time, when he is not on the road, he can work from home (and help clean up all of the things that come out of either end of a newborn kid).

We traveled a lot to visit family this year.  In March we were in Nashville and then to Ohio to welcome in our newest nephew, Jackson Kubo Brand.  Gabby got some good baby practice with the newborn and stayed for 2 weeks to help out Kerri.

Scott ran his first 5-mile race in Nashville over Thanksgiving where he came in 20th in his age group, jus behind all runners from Kenya and Namibia (he’s wishes!).  Gabby, on the other hand, enjoyed the views while chatting with her friend Nancy as they walked and searched for a port-o-potty on a construction site at mile 4.  All were rewarded afterward with a giant Thanksgiving Day feast later that day.

We participated in two wonderful weddings this year.  Congratulations to Brian & Rebekah McDonough and David & Carla Taylor.  Both are cause for much celebration.  Scott stood in Brian’s wedding and Gabby in Carla’s.  The October wedding date gave us a little bit of a scare when Gabby’s alterations lady told her two weeks before the wedding that “the dress will not zip”.  With much determination, some help from the baby and backup pliers in hand, the dress was a snug fit on the big day.  It was an extra-special occasion, as Scott got to officiate the wedding.  With a little help from lenient Texas marriage laws and ordination via the First International Church Of The Web (no lie), Carla and David were pronounced husband and wife. If any of you are lookin’ to get hitched, just give him a call!  He even has the ordination certificate of authenticity and a laminated wallet card to prove it!

We hope the year has been as wonderful for all of you as it has been for us.  We are confident God was present in your lives - lighting the way for each of your paths.  We are so very grateful for the love and friendship that each of you has given to us this year and pray each of you will be blessed in this coming new year. 

With Love, Los Dannemillers