Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Forgive an Old Man His Nostalgia

Year: 1994
My Age: 15-16
Place: Prince George, BC and St. Albert, AB

I saw this video today, and I just have to share it on this neglected blog of mine.  There were things in there that I had forgotten about, but the memories came flooding back as I saw and heard them.  I even found myself smiling at the songs I hated when they were popular.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Sometime between the end of high school (1996) and before my mission (late 1998), the city of St. Albert was infested by voles.
I'm not gonna lie; it was an adorable infestation.  Much better than southern Alberta's moth infestation of 1990.
I was living at home with my parents and most of my sisters.  I don't remember for sure which ones were at home and which weren't, because even the ones who didn't live with us visited often.  Jenn was married for sure, and I think Rob was living in Edmonton with room-mates (this was before he married Cindy).

Anyway, voles.  Voles in our house.

My sisters are all strong, independent, modern women.  They aren't the type who will stay at home all day relying on a man to run their lives.  Whenever any sort of rodent reared its little head, though, they became the stereotypical screeching damsel in distress jumping up on a chair to avoid the hideous creature.  It usually fell to me to dispose of the tiny invaders.
I had a hard time finding this picture with an actual mouse instead of a computer mouse.  Are modern women really terrified of computer mouses?

I killed my first mouse at the tender age of 12.  It was a joint effort between me and my father in Raymond.  We cornered it in the dining room, and I killed it with a pot.  Since then, the family started turning to me to dispose of pests.

During the vole infestation of the late '90s, I was working at Soda Jerks, and it was very common for me to come home after a long, greasy shift and find an overturned ice cream bucket on the floor with a stack of hard cover books weighing it down.  When I wasn't home, they were forced to catch the vole themselves, but then they'd just leave it there for hours until I came home.  I'd slide a piece of cardboard under the bucket, carry the vole outside, and chuck it.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same vole I was catching and releasing over and over again.

Sometimes, but far less often, I'd come home and find the overturned ice cream bucket, but without any of the books holding it place.  In these cases, it was a bee or wasp that they caught, and I'd be the one to dispose of it.  I didn't find this fair at all, because I was (and still am) terrified of bees and wasps.  And it was harder to slide the cardboard underneath the bucket without letting the flying daggers escape.

I know this is a '90s blog, and I resist talking about anything that happened outside of that decade, but I just can't tell this story without talking about modern-day Mary.  She manages a golf course in Canada's only desert, and regularly catches rattlesnakes that wander onto the course.  So that beats any rodent I ever killed, including the rats on my mission.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Class of '96

Year: 1996
Place: Raymond, AB
My age: 18

Hold on to your monocles; this one's photo-heavy.

For my senior year of high school, I left home to move in with my Aunt Joyce, whose son Jake was my best friend.  I had other good friends in Raymond, and I wanted to graduate high school with them.  And I did!  Yay for being smart!  (I almost didn't, thanks to the stupid, yet required course CALM, which I neglected because of its stupidity.  My teacher had pity on me, and I managed to squeak out a passing grade.)

I don't know if they still do this today, but back in my day, Raymond High School grad was a two-night affair.  May 9 was the senior prom, and May 10 was lunch banquet and the actual ceremony later in the afternoon.
Jake Heninger and Shauna Lunn (Fun fact: spell-check wants me to change Heninger to Herring.)
Prom was a Thursday night, and we were given the Friday off of school for the festivities.  Jake was dating a girl named Shauna Lunn at the time, so she was obviously his date.  I asked a girl I was interested in named Alison Quist.  Yes, she was Anders Quist's younger sister.  (My sister's sister-in-law is no relation whatsoever to me, so it wasn't weird.)  I met Alison when Anders and Jenny got married, and had seen her on several occasions since then.
Alison and me (Fun fact: I had no idea what to do with my hand in this photo)
Before prom, a large group of us went to eat in the banquet room of the New Dynasty Chinese restaurant.  The MT Vibes who were graduating this year (six of us, if I remember correctly) plus some other good friends and our dates were there.
Mardi Smith and Travis Bissett, for example.  That's Jenn Smith in the shadows on the left, and Shauna on the right (Fun fact: Travis and Mardi got married a few years after this, and Travis now works in the same law firm that my wife does.)
After dinner, we headed back to Raymond for the dance, which was being held at the high school.  It was a Roman theme, so the gym was decorated to resemble ancient Rome, including a life-size plastic horse with a chariot.  In the lobby of the school, the scroll with all of our names on it (there were 82 of us in the Class of '96) was on display so we could have our pictures taken with it.  Later, it would go up on the wall of the gym with all of the other past classes.  (I was the fourth one in my family to graduate from RHS: Rob in '90, Jenny in '91, and Amy in '93 preceded me.)
Alison and me with the scroll (Fun fact: I'm blocking my name with my shoulder)
I had been to scores of dances as a teenager, and this one was no different save for the fact that I mostly just danced with Alison.  That, and we were dressed up nicer than usual.  I was my usual suave, charming self.  And by that, I mean I was overwhelmed with shyness and clammed right up.  Alison was good about it, though.  She's talkative enough that she was able to carry the brunt of the conversation.  This was my first date ever, and it was with an absolutely gorgeous girl, so I was very nervous.

After the dance, a bunch of us went to Regan Dahl's house and watched Mr. Bean until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.  Then Jake and I drove Alison and Shauna to their homes, and that was the end of night one of grad.

We woke up at an ungodly hour (by a teenager's reckoning) the next morning to prepare for the banquet.  Jake wanted to honor our Scottish heritage (and draw attention to himself) by wearing a kilt to grad.  He didn't have a kilt, though, so he ended up borrowing one from Alison.  It was the Alberta tartan.  The banquet was pretty good, even though I was exhausted from the previous night.  Our parents were there for this part.  I forget a lot of what happened, but I do remember that some of us, including the six graduating MT Vibes, sang after lunch.  We were a little delayed, because Ted Holt was outside waiting for his date to arrive, and to kill time while we were standing there waiting for Ted, Carol Dahl asked (using the microphone, so everyone could hear) what Jake was wearing under the kilt.  Jake's answer: "Boxers as well as briefs."  We eventually sang our song, which might have been "Bridge Over Troubled Water", but I'm too lazy to go find my journal and look it up.
Back: Jaron Macmullen, Mark Svenson, Darren Ellingson, Travis Bissett, Trevor Heninger, Will Jensen
Front: Regan Dahl, me, Kevin Calder, Jake Heninger, Scott Parker, not Ted Holt (Fun fact: what's Jake doing with his mouth?)
Later that afternoon, we had the grad ceremony.  There was a whole program, but it was kind of boring (all grads are) so I won't go into too many details.  The class historians were Regan and Travis, and their presentation was quite entertaining.  The valedictorian was Jaron MacMullen.  Then we were each, one at a time, given scrolls.  They weren't diplomas, because there was still over a month of school left, so they basically said, "Congratulations!  You'll graduate this June if you don't screw it up!"
Dad, me, Mum (Fun fact: Whenever I look at this photo, I wish that my arm was around Dad, too.)

Shauna, Jake, me, Alison (Fun fact: Alison and I never dated, because I was such a wuss back then, but we had many years of interesting friendship.)

Back: Will Jensen, Mark Svenson, Darren Ellingson, Trevor Heninger, Jaron MacMullen, Jake Heninger
Middle: Kevin Calder, Regan Dahl, Scott Parker, Travis Bissett, Ted Holt, me
Front: Carol Dahl, Mardi Smith, Jade Chan, Jodie Freeze, Michelle Atwood, Lana Healy
(Fun fact: I went and changed out of my robe, then discovered that my friends were having a group shot, so I don't match them.)
After the ceremony, most of the graduating class plus dates rented a family recreation centre called Laffs, or something (it doesn't exist anymore, so I can't double-check that without digging up my journal) from midnight until 8:00 in the morning.  It was a lot of fun.  There was laser tag, a ball pit that we normally wouldn't be able to use, but there were no little kids there, and all sorts of games.  Alison and I won some cheap little plastic bat rings, and we climbed around the climbing things meant for kids playing Batboy and Batgirl.  All-in-all, it was a great time, and I'm glad that I graduated with my friends instead of staying at Bellerose Composite High School in St. Albert and graduating with people who were mostly strangers.  My friends from church in St. Albert all went to a different high school.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sister Dimaya

Year: 1999
Place: Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines
My Age: 20-21

This entry is somewhat unique compared to the rest of the blog.  I say 1999 while I was 20 and 21, because that is when I knew Sister Dimaya.  She was the wife of my first mission president, Fred C. Dimaya.  She's also the person who performed the first three surgeries on my ingrown toenail.  (Hey, there's an idea for a future blog entry.)  The story I'm going to tell about her, however, happened in the '70s before I was even born.

I don't know when this picture was taken.  I just got it off of Google Image Search.
She was a great mission president's wife.  Very happy and outgoing, and instantly put us missionaries at ease. She could always make us laugh.  The first time she operated on my toe, during my first month in the Philippines, she had me soaking my foot beforehand while she went to gather what she needed.  A few minutes later, she came out of the kitchen holding a meat cleaver and asked, "Are you ready?"

LDS Living Magazine published an article about four inspirational modern LDS women back in 2009.  I just found out about it today, when one of my old mission buddies posted a link to it on Facebook.  One of the women was Sister Dimaya.  I had heard snippets of the story she told before, but it was always third or fourth hand from other missionaries who had heard it elsewhere.  I knew that she had been a medic for a guerilla army when she was young, but I had never heard it told in her own words before today.  Here's the story, quoted from LDS Living:

"I’ve been a member of the Church for almost twenty-seven years. I have nine children – seven are living, and I lost two in infancy.

I was raised in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. I grew up Catholic. I studied at an exclusive girls’ school and later transferred to a private high school. Afterward, I went to the University of Santo Tomas and studied nursing for three years. I never took it up as a profession because in 1972 I got involved with a movement that was fighting against the Marcos dictatorship. I became involved because my cousin, whom I was rooming with, was a leader of the MAKIBAKA. This was a woman’s organization that was the counterpart to the men’s organization opposing Marcos.

I recognized that there were social problems in my country. I saw poverty all around me every day. But I thought, Well, that’s life. There’s nothing you can do about it. But after reading my cousin’s literature, I realized that you can do something about it. So I decided to join my cousin in the movement.

My cousin was blacklisted by the government and had to leave school. Not long afterwards, following a major demonstration, I was blacklisted and jailed, too.

My father did not visit me in jail, nor did he bail me out for fear of associating with me. When I was released, the police followed me everywhere. My cousin contacted me and said the movement would pick me up and take me into the underground. I wound up in a safe house in Manila, and that’s where I met my husband.

We learned that we would both be sent to Angeles City, Pampanga, to staff a hospital that was being built by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). We worked with doctors in the operating room, learning first aid procedures, but at the same time we were providing support for the CPP and its military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). Any of their people who were wounded in encounters with the military were sent to us.

After a while, my husband was sent to the mountains, where people were being shot. I was already pregnant with our first child and I stayed behind, running the hospital. What I didn’t know was that one of our patients had been caught by the government and tortured. He finally gave in to the pain and told where the hospital was located.

One afternoon I was alone in the hospital and I locked it up to take a nap. Somehow the troops broke in and I was awakened by a gun barrel poking me in the face. Ten men in army uniforms surrounded me.

“No sudden movements,” they told me. “Just stand up and turn around.” They were looking for one of our commanders and I told them, “He’s not here. Go ahead and look around, but there’s no one here but me.”

Often female prisoners were raped or even killed, but for some reason they didn’t touch me. But I still didn’t escape torture. I was beaten with the stock of an M16 rifle. They wanted me to tell them where my husband was.

I was taken to the military camp in Angeles, Camp Olivas, for tactical interrogation. They asked me questions, and if I didn’t give the answer they wanted to hear, they slapped me. I withheld my real name, so my parents never learned that I had been taken.

I finally had to tell the military that I was pregnant with my first baby. They sent me to a hospital to make sure that the beatings hadn’t damaged my baby. Luckily, everything was fine. When I got back from the hospital, they kept me with the other female prisoners.

After the birth of my first child, we lived in the prison for another year. I applied for amnesty on grounds that prison wasn’t a healthy place to raise an infant. After a series of conferences, the military agreed to grant me amnesty on the condition that I report in weekly. They wanted to make sure the child was well and I was no longer with the opposition. My husband heard through underground sources that I had been released.

Eventually we managed to set up a meeting. My husband promised to find a way we could all be together again in the underground. One day he sent word that I should pack my belongings and meet him at a certain time and place. I went there and waited, but he never came. I learned through friends that he had been taken prisoner and was being tortured. Even today, he still feels some pain as a result of his beatings in prison.


My husband was held prisoner for eight months. After he was freed, we went to Cebu City, where his family lived. It was about this time that we first became acquainted with the Church. My husband’s cousin was working for the LDS Church Educational System, and he was transferred to Cebu to help establish the seminary program there. He and his wife told us a little about the Church. Later, we met the missionaries. About a year and a half later, in 1975, we were both baptized. Eventually my husband and I served a mission in Tacloban City, in the Visayan Islands.

We found that the Church gave us opportunities to work to improve the social conditions in our country. One of the most important factors in changing the culture of poverty is the change that is made inside a person, and the Church showed us that if you have the desire to make that change, everything outside will change, too.

I taught seminary for eighteen years and LDS Institute for two years. That experience taught me so much. In fact, I’ve learned more through my experiences in the Church than I ever did from my experiences in the hills."

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Year: 1999
Place: Almeria, Biliran, Philippines
My age: 21

Alright, so I'm delving into missionary memories now.  Most of my mission was in 1999, so I deem that as perfectly acceptable.  I thought about making a blog of mission memories, but I have enough blogs already.

So, August of 1999 found me in my third area, which was Almeria on the small island province of Biliran.  It was one of, if not the most beautiful of the nine areas I served in, and my companion, Elder Christian Pfister, was one of my favourite companions (I had 16).  One of the reasons I loved this area was because it was a small, isolated, rugged town with some of the friendliest people I ever met.  One family that we were teaching lived in a small group of houses with the ocean to one side and rice fields to another.  To get to it, we had to hike along a beautiful black-sand beach, and then wade through a stream.  There was a house along the beach that we would pass whenever we headed out there that had a pet monkey on a leash out front.  It was a male monkey, so it hated us, but that didn't stop us from visiting it and feeding it snacks when we saw it.  On one particular day, we saw the teenage girl from the monkey family doing this:
She walked up to the shore and just chucked the monkey into the water.  It swam back to her, and she picked up and threw it again.  She did this maybe three or four times.  When we asked what she was doing, she told us that she was giving it a bath.  Finally, after the monkey swam back to her for the third or fourth time, she picked it up and wrapped it in a towel.  It looked like an adorable, furry baby.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Amazing Exploding Closet

Year: 1998
Place: St. Albert
My age: 20

After returning to my family after graduating high school in Raymond, I was demoted from my room at the top of the house to the tiny room in the basement.  It wasn't so bad.  It had all the room that a young male adult needed.

For as long as my family had been living in our house in St. Albert, we had water issues.  Every  now and then, the basement would flood a little.  Don't ask me any of the details of the process that I'm going to talk about, because I have no idea how it's supposed to work.  One day, in an attempt to stop future floods, a contractor came out to flush something out.  There was a small open pipe on the roof, and apparently, you can spray water in it at high pressure, and it will flush some sort of system of pipes in the house, and somehow that fixes the flooding problem.  So the guy comes in the morning while I'm in my room getting ready to go to work.  The water he was spraying was really loud in my room.  I figured that the first bend in the pipe must have been right above my closet, so I didn't think too much of it at first.  After a minute, I decided that it was too loud, and I opened my closet to look in and see if there were any leaks.  It was just then, as I stuck my head in the closet, that the closet exploded in a generous shower of water and soaked drywall.

I ran upstairs covered in white globs yelling, "What the hell is going on?!"  My mother saw me, and I informed her that my closet had just exploded on me, and she went outside and told the guy to shut the water off.  After a quick inspection, it was discovered that this system of pipes that I am not knowledgeable enough to describe further didn't exist save for the one long, open pipe leading from the roof of the house straight down to the roof of my unfortunate closet.  A cap was installed on the pipe to prevent any future watery explosions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Year: 1994 or 1995.  Not sure which.
Place: High Level, AB
My age: 16 or 17

Yeah, I forget if this happened during the summer between grade 10 and grade 11 or the summer between grade 11 and grade 12.  Doesn't really matter.  I'm leaning towards 1995, but I could be mistaken.

So, like I said, it was summer, so I wasn't in school.  Dad was working in High Level for the North Peace Tribal Council, which happens to be where he still is working today.  Mum and some of us younger kids went up to spend the summer there with him.  Under Dad's urgings, I went out and got a job while I was up there.  I was hired at A&W, where I worked at the till and in the dining room.  For whatever reason, the people who ran the place never made me a name tag.  Since it was against the rules to wear a uniform without a name tag, they made me wear the name tag of the guy who had worn the uniform before me.  His name was Erik.  And, therefore, while I worked at A&W, my name was Erik.  Mike MacKenzie got the pay checks, but Erik did all the work.

It was a terrible job.  That's no surprise to anyone who has ever worked fast food before.  Those jobs are, by definition, terrible.  What made it worse for me was the complete isolation I felt working there.  My co-workers all knew each other from school, and were friends as a result.  I was shy, and on top of that, I knew that I would never see any of these people again after my two months of employment were up.  So I made no connections with them even though I worked side-by-side with them everyday.  It didn't depress me or anything, but it made it harder to cope with such a crappy job.

My favourite moment as Erik would have had to come when I was mopping the floor one evening.  There were a couple of cute girls my age eating at a table near where I was mopping.  After ignoring a few "Hey Eriks" from them, I realized that, oh right, I'm Erik.  I turned to them with all of the teenage suave I was famous for and said, "Sorry.  My name's not Erik.  It's just what my name tag says."

"Oh," they replied.  End of conversation.

Aw, yeah!  I was a pimp, dawg!