Our “Axe-llent” Holiday Party

In recent years, to put a fun spin on our team’s holiday parties, we have added an after-dinner activity. A few years ago we went to a karaoke bar. Last year we attended a stand-up comedy show. This year we thought, what could be more natural for a holiday party than throwing axes with your work colleagues?

I admit that I was a little nervous when the idea was first proposed. I am not a champion by any stretch of the imagination in any game that involves aiming a projectile at a target. Frankly I was less nervous about myself and more nervous for everyone else around me.

But my curiosity did indeed reign supreme in terms of what was involved in throwing axes for the sport of it. What drove me to say yes was the thought that at a minimum, it could be a very bloggable once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After our lovely team dinner, it was time to head over to the venue. Along the way, I noticed that the butterflies in my stomach felt more like a fleet of commuter jets, not really knowing what was lay ahead for us.

The moment we walked in, my senses went into overdrive, but in a good way. Between participants cheering at the top of their lungs, the sound of axes hitting (or missing) their targets with a loud thud, and the strong but pleasant aroma of the wooden targets that filled the air, I knew that I had stepped way out of my comfort zone.

For a brief moment, the “what was I thinking when I said yes?” thoughts flew by, but just the same, I remained committed.

The check-in process started with being handed a tablet through which I signed a waiver essentially saying that I wouldn’t hold them responsible for an accident. I knew that this was a necessary part of any dangerous activity. In having done my homework, in checking out their web site and in reading every word in their FAQs ahead of time, I felt like I was in good hands.

As we walked over to the area where we would be playing, the intensity in the venue was unmistakable. That familiar mix of competition and determination could be seen in face after face.

Some people were holding and aiming their axes with such amazing form, looking at their targets with laser sharp focus, it was obvious that they had done this before. I was instantly impressed with the beauty of the sport.

Moments later, our axe throwing coach joined us and explained in detail the mandatory safety rules. Once everyone was clear on the ground rules, she proceeded to explain the technique involved in properly throwing an axe toward the target.

During our first throws, to get warmed up and get individual advice on our technique, I was able to hit the target a few times, but most of my shots were too high, too low or bounced off the target.

I did shock the heck out of myself a couple of times when my throws hit the bull’s eye, earning me five points each time.

That was when I started understanding that hitting the target wasn’t about just luck. The checklist of things to remember was considerable to ensure good form, good grip, and that the axe is projecting toward the centre of the target. But when I focused too much on my grip, my aim was off. When I focused too much on my aim, the axe would wobble. There were so many things to remember.

However, in those moments of deep concentration, when I was standing with one foot forward, with the axe firmly in hand in my outstretched arms, aiming carefully for my target, it was a very empowering position. In my mind I felt like I looked like an Olympian… or an Avenger about to go into battle. But I’m sure that to random strangers, I probably looked more like a fifty year old man thinking he was hot stuff.

Either way, I didn’t care. I was having fun.

During the trial round, I scored what I considered to be a respectable number of points for a first-timer, but relative to my collagues’ scores, was validation that I still suck at sports where aim is involved.

When we embarked upon our team tournament, despite approaching it with strong motivation, good energy and good form, I was eliminated in the first round of semi-finals.

For the rest of the tournament, it seemed that my teammates had found their stride, hitting the target time after time. We were now the ones cheering loudly, as we were totally in the vibe and in the game.

A little later, we crowned the winner of our finals and high-fived each other for not only a good game, but for a fun evening.

While I think it is fair to say that there may have been apprehension going into it, there is something to be said for learning a new skill together, with a side order of friendly competition.

I don’t think anyone wants to look bad in front of others, but when an activity is with a group with whom we feel safe and comfortable, doing something that’s a little out of our office wheelhouse can indeed be a fun idea for a team get together.

In the long run, it really won’t matter how many times we hit the bull’s eye. But the overall experience will be etched in our collective memories, and will likely form part of the “Remember when…” stories we will all fondly remember for years to come.

It was an “axe-llent” evening!

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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The Moment I Became Picky About Pens

Like most of the people I know, through most of my adult life I bought pens by the dozen and never gave it much thought. I confess that I did develop a short list of favourites and bought some brands over and over, but I never really gave it much thought.

And truly, the only real criteria that ever dropped a certain one from my short list was if the pen repeatedly skipped, leaked, smeared, spit gobs of ink, or scraped the paper. But beyond that, I never really gave it much thought.

When my aspirations as a writer started surfacing, surprisingly, my position on pens never really changed even though I started going through them like tissues. As long as they were well-behaved and got the job done, why should I give it more thought?

True enough, much of my writing is done with a computer these days anyway, but there are times when I still enjoy the tactile experience of feeling like the writing instrument is an extension of the human body. And some of my notes still get entered in journals so writing tools are still an essential.

I forget what I was randomly Googling one day, but one of the suggested links provided was “ballpoint pen reviews.”

“That’s a thing?” I asked myself. So ever curious about tools for my craft I clicked on one of the links and started reading. This let me to another link… and another… Continue reading

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When Screening Calls Became Socially Acceptable

I remember the thrill of buying my first answering machine, for my first phone, in my first apartment, at my very own phone number.

To me, this was a huge step forward in my new found independence, not only in helping me run my household but in remaining connected with family and friends.

Just to help set the stage, this was the late 1980s. The concept of handheld devices bombarded by emails and text messages was still years away.

For those times I needed to be in two or three places at once, an answering machine was the solution to ensure I didn’t miss any important telephone messages.

But when I was home, the reflex that many of us shared was to run to answer the phone when it rang.

I reluctantly admit that for my borderline extrovert personality, there were times that the introvert in me needed some breathing space. After exerting a lot of extrovert energy in a bustling office, I just needed some time to recharge.

When the phone would ring, I might have reluctantly said to myself, “Maybe I’ll let the machine get it”. I didn’t do it all the time. Self-inflicted guilt would not have let that happen. Continue reading

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Where Are My Grocery Bags?

It is a mystery that repeats itself often enough that an intervention by Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot could be warranted.

Over the years, in an attempt to be more eco-friendly, I must have acquired at least 25 reusable fabric grocery bags. Yet how is it that I often find myself without one, where and when I need one?

When I first jumped on the reusable grocery bag bandwagon, I bought three, thinking that this would be enough for all of my grocery needs. “Never would I buy more than that in one grocery run, for just one person”, I thought to myself.

While that may have been true in theory, it didn’t account for the possibility of having something like a meat product or a dairy product drip.

In that instance, it didn’t feel terribly eco-friendly to wash just one bag in a wash load nor did I want to combine it with a load of good clothes. And hand washing anything that involves bleach scares the crap out of me for fear of creating a bleach stain on whatever I happen to be wearing at the time.

So I decided to wait until the next convenient opportunity for the grocery bag to hitch a laundry ride with the eco-friendly washable dust rags. But that was still a couple of weeks away. I placed the bag under quarantine (in a plastic bag, I’m sorry!) and that was when my three grocery bags became two.

It didn’t take long for two to become one, as history repeated itself, which then raised the urgency level on the grocery bag wash, for fear of not being able to continue doing my good deed for the environment. Continue reading

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Fixing the Eyesore Door

When I first visited this house 18 years ago, I remember saying to my real estate agent that “this thing has got to go”. I was referring to the ugly interior door that separated the entry hall from the rest of the house. And yet, it’s still here and referred to as the “Eyesore Door”.

The thing is that over the years, life got in the way. Between the time and energy required to build a career, to enjoy a social life, and to tend to other priorities like cooking, cleaning, laundry, running, writing this blog and raising a cat, the years escaped on me.

Plus, there was a priority list of other home renovations that needed to get done, because of fixtures running their course or other corners of the house that got on my nerves worse than the door.

Despite being a relentless eyesore, it faded from my radar. But this was the year to finally do something about it.

While the door was probably cute when it made its first appearance, it was made of a soft, honey-coloured wood which was prone to scuffs and scratches. Located in the most high traffic area of the house, it picked up scars from anything and everything that brushed by. The door was also my clear evidence that pets lived here before Ivy and I moved in.

What I couldn’t figure out was how and why this particular door was here, when it didn’t match any other fixture or finish in the house.

Either way, a light sanding would never have sufficed to correct the imperfections covering pretty much every square inch of its surface. Continue reading

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The Bright Side of Daylight Savings Time

When getting ready to leave the house, I have mini-milestones in my routine to stay on track and to ensure that I am out the door at the right time, to ensure I am at my destination on time.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend activity, a work day or just going out to run errands, the “fun” is the same. Have you ever had things go like this?…

One Saturday morning, I finished my workout at 9:10, according to the clock in the basement, which I know runs a little fast. I thought I was off to a good start and that I must be a little ahead of schedule.

According to the bathroom clock, I was out of the shower at 9:25, meaning I was still five minutes ahead of schedule.

On my way to the bedroom, the cat stops me for a morning belly-rub.

But by the time I finished picking my clothes and laying them on the bed, slathering on some face moisturizer and applying my anti-perspirant, according to the bedroom clock, it was suddenly 9:40, which meant I was five minutes behind.

I wondered to myself if I had briefly dozed off while offering the cat some attention. Time to speed it up! Continue reading

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The Roving Writer

As much as I try to make my home a comfortable, quiet place to devote myself to the craft of writing, there are times when things fall out of the span of my control.

Whether it is a symphony of leaf blowers, a neighbour’s dog barking for hours, another neighbour’s ailing muffler, a charming visitor to the neighbourhood who needs to turn the car alarm on and off seven times, or the apparent decision to suddenly reroute all air traffic directly above my house, auditory distractions are a fact of life.

Then add to the mix an extroverted attention-seeking cat, a ringing home phone, an empty coffee cup, a ringing doorbell, a load of laundry ready for drying, and the ding to indicate that my gluten-free banana bread is ready to come out of the oven.

When I reach into my desk drawer for a USB stick, I find a pair of old glasses that needs to be donated, I spot the case for the iPhone I carried in 2009 (that won’t fit anything today) and before I know it, I am in spring cleaning mode.

As I head back to my desk, I notice the wall I have been meaning to spackle in preparation for painting.

Moments later, I remember that the litter box needs “refreshing”.

When I finally return to my blog post, I write a few words and then take a moment to stare off into the distance between paragraphs. My mind drifts and I ask myself, “when was the last time I dusted that shelf?”

When I look in the other direction, I see Ivy the Wonder Cat’s favourite blanket and think to myself that it is probably due for a thorough washing.

At this rate, it’s a wonder that I succeed in publishing a weekly blog post. Continue reading

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