F A M I L Y ,   F R I E N D S . . . T O   T H O S E   W E   L O V E


Having missed 2008 entirely in terms of documenting it in a letter to the masses, we’ll designate a few paragraphs to the highest points and you can enjoy the gift of being spared the all the minute details of an entire year.

2008 was the year of transitions—again.  Both of us were offered positions at La Sierra University in Southern California — which would have offered Stephen the chance to work with his college roommate and best friend...something they've often dreamed of doing — and the process ultimately took us on the greatest roller coaster ride of indecision and longing for proximity to family that we’ve ever encountered.  In the end, we felt God was clearly calling us to stay at Andrews and continue the work here, so here we are.  Meanwhile, during the time of indecision and final decision, our house sold—twice—and we bought a new house—twice.  But that’s another long and painful story (or amusing, depending on what mood we’re in) and we’re in the new house and loving it.  The deal that we negotiated to stay at Andrews was that we wanted all the well-rotted manure we needed from the Andrews dairy delivered free to our new house to amend the clay soil so a good garden could be had.  (Clearly, we need someone else to negotiate our deals. . . .)  Six dump truck loads of quality poo and lots of heavy equipment help from friends, I had the makings of a beautiful mixed garden.  But for year one we started with just pumpkins since the poo turned out to be a little, uh, “ripe.” 

The highest highlight of 2008 was the birth of another granddaughter, Paige Olivia, on April 6 and this Grandma was able to be there to help keep the house going during the big event.   Unfortunately, Grandma picked up a nasty gastro-intestinal flu on the Chicago/Seattle flight that turned out to be rather dramatic (wheelchairs, oxygen mask, etc.) but the worst part was bringing the flu to the Stansal house and helplessly watching it make its rounds (and during a septic tank back-up into the basement, as if things couldn't possibly get worse).  But they’ve forgiven me and let me back to visit from time to time (whew!).  Paige, a dear, fine-boned young lady with her mother’s big blue eyes has together with her big sister, Rian, filled all the corners of their house with squeals, shrieks, princess paraphernalia and in Paige’s case, abandoned diapers (she’s a nature girl).  Sheri has her hands full as she also does the bookkeeping and phone reception work for Emory’s now-mega-successful hardwood flooring business.  Have a look at some of Em's work on their website (click here) —he's a master! He's so great at all of this not just because he's a craftsman when it comes to the wood, but he also offers elegance, care and remarkable attention to not just the details of the artistry of his floors, but the generosity of his relationships with those he works with. (That, and he's also just plain the most handsome artisan on Vancouver Island, and a good and loving father and husband, to boot.) In addition to managing a home and a business, Sheri manages to ably juggle her dental study group and plans to put a dental chair in their basement and open her own hygiene practice.  They are a dynamic team and have more business than they can keep up with just by word of mouth referrals. 

In the fall of 2008, we were especially fortunate to have Mom and Dad Smith come and stay for five weeks and the time truly flew by.  We took some time off to drive with them up to Ontario to visit Dad’s side of the family—a time of warm reconnecting and reminiscing with relatives and getting a glimpse of Dad’s roots.  While Mom and Dad were here, we discovered that Stephen's Uncle Bill was going to be on campus to give a scholarly presentation so we were fortunate that he could come for breakfast before returning home to Washington, DC.  Stephen always enjoys visits with his uncle and I was especially fascinated with the glimpse into the Petersen side of Stephen's family.  But sadly, goodbyes demand our attention and we bid him a too-soon farewell.  Mom and Dad stayed into November and it was very, very hard waving goodbye as the train pulled out of the station to take them home.  Christmas 2008 brought Wendy to our house for a week (plus a couple of extra unscheduled days as the snowstorms seriously hampered O’Hare’s schedule) and we had a great time seeing Chicago with her, doing some local shopping and getting some Pilates lessons as well (Stephen graciously opted out of that particular activity).

 And now, onto 2009.

During the month of January, Stephen spent four entire weeks in Brazil working on relationship-building with the Adventist university there as well as the church leaders to help bring the English language program to them, and likewise establish agreements to bring them to Andrews to the English language program here.  It was rewarding. . . and hot and sunny (and during an unexpected additional trip to Rio, he had the chance to spend the weekend on a private island owned by a friend of the university).  Back at home, Dalry kept the home fires burning (so to speak) as the snow dumped nearly every day during the coldest, cloudiest month of the year.  Three things made it all bearable however:  Small Group friend, Norm Klug and his trusty truck and snow blade; Skype; and St. John’s Wort.  

In February, Wendy wrote and passed the final exam to earn her CGA designation!  It was a long road of hard work for her to that point and we are so proud of her accomplishments.  She now works at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton as financial analyst for capital planning and asset management and she is doing very well.  She has also taken up rock climbing and if that isn’t sportsy enough, she is a guide for Backside Tours’ snowboard and ski excursions to the Rockies.  Look for Wendy T. on Backside Tours (and compliments of Wendy, here's one more link with her endorsement of the mecca that is Revvy).  I recently had the opportunity to meet the new man in her life, Steve, and if I had more than two thumbs, they would be up too.  He is a concept artist working for Bioware and has his name on the credits for several video games, "Dragon Age - Origins" being the most popular and most recent.   So it's only a matter of time I’m quite sure before his name will be among the opening credits for an animated feature film in the not-too-distant future.  He is a rather zany, energetic, creative and thoughtful breath of fresh air who treats our Wendy like a princess.  And that’s always a good thing.

April was a wonderful return to Vancouver Island to celebrate Paige's very first birthday on a trip that was happily wheelchair and oxygen-mask free, and also filled with the coloring of eggs, sunny swings and, best of all, to enjoy four generations around the Stansal Easter table.

About the same time as Wendy’s exam, Connor wrote his own exam of sorts, deep in his heart of hearts, and made the noble decision to enlist in the Canadian Army.  The family sat up and paid close attention, watching and waiting for updates from him in Basic Training at the Canadian Forces base just outside of Montreal.  He loved what he was doing and he was doing it well.  He graduated on June 11, 2009 as commander of his platoon and was awarded the Commandant’s Trophy for top candidate, that is, the recruit who best exemplifies the qualities most desirable in a soldier.  See graduation videos on my YouTube channel.  There are not words to adequately describe the pride we have in him for his bravery, sense of justice, excellence of accomplishments and the notable maturity we witnessed.  I have found that I have a strange mingling of that pride with gripping maternal fear that keeps me ever pleading with God for his safety.  But we seized the moment and celebrated with him at his graduation in Montreal. 

Connor began his infantry training course in September in Wainwright, Alberta and during his 14 intensive weeks of training in areas of physical endurance, close quarter combat, urban operations and field combat, etc., he was designated section senior.  On December 2, 2009, he graduated and became a member of the PPCLI—Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry as rifleman.  Following the graduation ceremony, one of the senior officers held a parents’ briefing and told us that our sons, brothers, husbands and boyfriends received the very best of training and were entering into a new family, the Army.  After further training in the spring and summer of 2010, they would be deployed in the fall (2010) to Afghanistan, most of them (Connor included) with the Third Battalion, “C” company.  I am thankful for that gift of time between now and September for a number of reasons.  Most importantly, we are so proud of our soldier, Pte. Dean.  And I think if he does still have to go overseas, he will not only be appreciated for his exceptional soldier qualities, but also his sense of humour.  After several days of field training, freezing in the trenches, eating army rations and having precious little sleep, Connor blurted out, “We wouldn’t have to be doing this if everyone would just get along!”  That is the Connor we know and love!  And he is SO right.  (And he thinks his combats make him look like relish.)

 Meanwhile, on Stephen’s side of the family, nephew Nathan has been serving in the US Army over in Afghanistan for the past few years (too long!) — he's waiting now for deployment again from the US Army Base in Italy — and we pray often for his safety and final return home.  We also pray for his immediate family who must carry on their day-to-day tasks while they wait for his next call and again, his safe arrival home.

Besides Nathan, other nieces and nephews are scattered throughout western Washington in educational pursuits (and with Kristen beginning her career in educational work in southwestern Washington), and we look forward to seeing them again this Christmas holiday after missing last Christmas.

This past spring I began the biggest garden project of my life.  The “poo” of 2008 was now ready to host new plants without burning their little feet (roots), so I had the Andrews greenhouse manager start seeds for me and in May, over 750 tiny flowering plants went into the ground with another couple hundred perennials and shrubs bought during Memorial Day sales.  I had many moments of self-diagnosed insanity/stupidity but forged on and laboured more than 30 hours per week keeping it weeded and watered until they got established.  It was a cool spring so things were slow but by late-June, the payoff had arrived and we had our own slice of heaven in our backyard.  I especially loved it in the early mornings after a night of soft rain.  I credit my gardening friend, Lauren, for her encouragement, advice, numerous perennial babies from her own garden and contagious, free-spirited passion and understanding of a gardener’s yen to plant and watch and tend and re-arrange.  And for her exhaustive gardening library from which she shared a few books at a time, and which I devoured. 

Of course, as in most gardens, there is the usual death and dismemberment, uncouth and unwanted bugs that met a drastic and sudden demise with deftly wielded pruners, a whack with the back of a hand trowel or getting dropped into a glass of soapy water.  There was also a rabbit problem, two of which I gunned down with a borrowed pellet rifle, and then there was the woodchuck problem, two of which Stephen snuffed in their den (under the forsythia) with smokebombs.  Of the rampant mole problem, we only got one that we know of.  So, amid the Eden-like environment lurked two gardening, um, killers/photographers (we take photos of the pretty things).  If the critters make the mortgage payments, they can dig up and eat up the garden.   For now, it seems that the remaining critters have found other accommodations beyond our yard.  As I write, I can look out and see last summer’s foliage bent under a blanket of snow, seven foot grasses and seedheads swaying with the breeze, trees and shrubs each creating their unique sculpture of bare branches and evergreens standing guard, all creating a winter garden architecture that promises another spring and summer of colour and peace. 

This year we made an effort to attend more concerts and were not disappointed by any of them.  One of my favourites was jazz trumpeter, Rick Braun, and his band in an outdoor concert on the beach at sunset.  The variety of artists we saw was as varied as the venues:  from the beaches of Lake Michigan (including fireworks) to the Howard Performing Arts Center to an Amish theatre to the Chicago Symphony Auditorium, we heard jazz, classical, traditional, contemporary Christian and yes, the Chicago Symphony and Chorus flawlessly perform Brahm’s Requiem, a gift from our boss and his wife, Niels-Erik and Demetra Andreasen.  I almost didn't want to breathe when the soprano sang. . . hers was the sweetest, purest voice I'd ever heard and I didn't want to miss a second of it.  If you ever have the opportunity, be sure to take in at least one concert of the Chicago Symphony.  We also had great seats in the 12th row for the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! when the Broadway touring company came to town, and we loved it all, including the 0n-your-feet encores. And while Stephen was still in Brazil, I even got to a Chicago Bulls game when James and Cathy Anderson took me with them to see their daughter, Sophie, performing with her gymnastics group, the Southern Adventist University Gym-Masters, during half time!

Beginning in 2008, Stephen’s job description changed dramatically as he was asked to create a new department on Andrews’ campus which they named, Integrated Marketing and Communications, all while holding onto his VP for Enrollment Management hat (a job eased greatly by the promotion of his colleague, Randy, into an associate VP slot).  It was a journey and a half, cobbling together staff members from here and there, getting them aligned and re-aligned, figuring out who is going to do what, discovering (painfully at times) where the gaps are and, eventually, launching a whole new brand architecture for the university and convincing the entire campus it’s needed and it’s good.  It hasn’t been without its challenges as change doesn’t come easily for many people but overall, Stephen and his team have accomplished much in a relatively short period of time.  The face and the story of Andrews is lookin’ good!  Check out the IMC team and their handiwork on their new website. 


An annual event that hails Stephen in his Gum Guy persona is the World Pulse Festival where nearly 50,000 young people gather in a field to listen to six hours of contemporary Christian music that is uplinked to satellite and viewed world wide.   Andrews University has the major sponsorship for this event so Gum Guy spent the day in the hot sun passing out 15,000 sticks of gum with Mrs. Gum Guy following close behind with gum re-loads and bottled water.  We are thinking we might be getting too old for this.  ;)

As for me, I am still occupying the executive assistant's desk in the Office of the President at Andrews University and am finding it more rewarding as time goes on and the job expands into different areas and responsibilities increase.  I think I may be the envy of all the executive assistants in the Adventist world to get to work for the famed Dr. Andreasen!  :)  To keep it fun, every now and then I bust loose with the girls I work with and we have a great time story-telling, cackling and being, wellgirls!


As mentioned earlier I was in Edmonton for Connor’s December 2 military graduation.  I arrived a few days earlier and spent a couple of days in Lacombe visiting friends I hadn’t seen since I moved away in July 2006—too long!!  But it was so great to see them and it was as if time had never passed.  I also spent a couple of days at Wendy’s place in Edmonton where I met again Adam, her roomie, and Steve, the aforementioned nice guy (who drove me to the airport for my return flight and had a Tim Horton’s hot chocolate waiting in the truck for me... have mercy).   There was a lot of visiting packed into a short time and I came home pretty tired, but very happy.


In mid-December, we will be packed and headed to Canada again, only this time the destination is Sheri and Emory’s where Connor and Wendy will be spending Christmas as well—the first time with all three kids for Christmas in five years, and now with two adorable little granddaughters, too!  After Christmas we will head down to Olympia, Wash. for the Payne family Christmas celebration and we always enjoy those times—especially the traditional game of Apples to Apples (be ready, Amy)!


Special guests to our home this past year included visits from Cathy Anderson, former CaUC co-worker now living in Oshawa, ON, sister Susan from San Diego (please stay longer next time!), and former karate senseis, boss and very good friends, Bruce and Geri Buttler from Lacombe.  And while they never stayed over night, we had the fun of hosting our Friday night Small Group at our home — and this past summer, we spent one memorable get-together on a fellow group member’s cherry orchard in Traverse City, Mich.  They’re a loved group of friends—our family away from familyand our spiritual journeys have been blessed on the many Friday evenings we share together throughout the year. 

So, whether you come for a picnic and barbeque or can stay longer — a guest room is also always ready (mostly) —and we eagerly encourage each of you to put our house on your destination or stopover travel list.

With love this Christmas and throughout the year to come,

Dalry & Stephen Payne

ps Christmas travels have now begun, and we just spent some time last evening with our dear friends Donald and Rebecca May (whose backyard was the site of our wedding three and a half years ago); we sat in the third row at Willow Creek for a wonderful Christmas program called "God With Us" — check out the "Travels" page for a few images from the evening.