Category Archives: Thoughts

Avocuddle… Who knew?

Firstly, I apologize for the lack of posts. It’s rare for me to be able to sit down and collect my thoughts lately, it’s always go-go-go and the day is always over before I know it. For those that don’t know, I’m a work-at-home mom and I own a greeting card company. It’s my hobby turned passion and I now work on the business full-time. I live with my husband and two-year-old daughter in Toronto’s east end. As a small business, it has been very challenging to get my company’s name out into the world, so I graciously take all the help I can get. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful, and while it takes little to no effort to share and pass on something you like, there is one vital step that is crucial we small businesses depend on — crediting. I rely on people to link back to queenie’s cards’ website or any online presence to keep spreading the word about my work. Without crediting, that photo shared on social media gets lost and without knowing, it’s out of your hands and other people are taking the credit — that credit is countless hours of hard work, endless efforts of self-promoting, long days selling at shows, sleepless nights of creating inventory, and wasted family time that should not be spent writing a blog post about other people taking work that is not theirs.

“let’s avocuddle” is a greeting card I created last fall (2014). I assure you, every single piece of work I release is from my own ideation. I have drawings and taglines that are similar to others, such as “thanks a latte” or “you’re a gem” — but puns are a funny thing, it is entirely possible for someone else on the other side of the world, or even down the street, to have come up with the same idea. The originality is in the design, and this below, is MY design, under my company name, queenie’s cards.

The owner/author of a new original work secures the copyright the moment he or she creates the work. This means I automatically own the copyright of my work the millisecond I put my pencil to paper when creating new drawings. Watermarking is a choice and I did have watermarks in my early work, but I decided to remove it because I valued the customer experience when browsing through my online shop. I find them distracting and some customers thought the watermark was a part of the design which deterred them from purchasing my products. So, without giving it too much thought, I kept my images clean, for my customers, what you see is what you get. It wasn’t until last month when Instagram took my avocuddle cartoon to a new level — it went viral. With a combined 60,000 likes and counting, seen by over 120,000 Instagram account holders, this avocuddle cartoon has become quite the phenomenon! It’s amazing, unbelievable, and utterly flattering! But… not everyone knows I am the creator.

When you repost anything that isn’t yours, please know that is using someone else’s work without permission. I absolutely want you to share my images, but I depend on a mention, a tag, anything, to let others know how they can find my original work — which happens to be fun things such as greeting cards, art prints, magnets, tote bags, onesies and more! Maybe that someone who saw your post would even make a purchase, and supporting small businesses means that money will be put back into my neighbourhood through other local shops, children’s programs, and community events.

I am absolutely not blaming anyone who has reposted my image without crediting, because I am fully aware you may not have known. But I do ask that if I contacted you in any way, with a reply/comment, an email, anything, please take a few seconds to add my name to your description, or tag my account (@ queeniescards). My friends, family and loyal customers have been trying to do the same, searching for hashtags, commenting, tagging, emailing… and I am forever grateful for such a mindblowing support system for my little company. I would not be able to do what I love, to see my dream into reality, without all of you. I genuinely thank you all for your devoted efforts — it’s worked twice! (Yes, can you believe this has happened twice already?).

@blogilates, 849k followers

@deliciouslyella, 423k followers

YAY! SUCCESS! Even though it took a bit to get things sorted, look at their descriptions :)

So here is the watermarked photo I welcome you to share, I want to keep the integrity of the design so I added my company name on the side. Please don’t erase or alter the image in any way, and if you can, maybe tag me before posting it :)

xoxo
Queenie

P.S. You can purchase the greeting card here, and the art print here!

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A Dog’s Purpose

It took me over a month to finish this post. Every time I tried to finish it, I had to stop to wipe my tears. I think it’s now ready as it will ever be…

You’ve probably read the viral online story entitled “A Dog’s Purpose: According to a 6 year old.” If you haven’t, I’ve copied and pasted it below. As an animal lover, a dog lover, get your tissues ready and read this short story:

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.”

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued,

“Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them;
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a  joyride;
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy;
  • Take naps;
  • Stretch before rising;
  • Run, romp, and play daily;
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you;
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do;
  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass;
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree;
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body;
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk;
  • Be loyal;
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not;
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it;
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit  close by, and nuzzle them gently;

There comes a time in life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. So, love the people who treat you right.

Think good thoughts for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy.

Falling down is part of LIFE…

Getting back up is LIVING…

Click for source

This reminded me of the book, A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, a story about a dog that reincarnates after discovering its purpose for each life. The one “life” that really stuck out to me was when the dog was slipping away at the vet but fought to stay alive to wait for the little boy he grew up with, who is now an adult, to come say goodbye before he passed. Coincidentally, as soon as my husband and I found out one of our pups was ill while we were on our trip out west, I was reminded of this story and hoped for a miracle she would be able to wait for us to see her.

Thankfully, she held on and we were able to spend the last few days together at home. It’s a curse being an animal lover, you know the end day will come but you will never be ready for it.

For those of you that don’t know, my husband and I met at a dog park in front of the condo where we both used to live. He had a 4-year-old Golden Retriever named Rory and I had wee little 2-month-old Bowser. It was an early weekday morning in the summer of 2008, and we were the only ones at the park. Bowser immediately started playing with Rory, and when I looked up at her dashing owner, it was then that I experienced love at first sight. Everything changed after that day, and it was all thanks to our furry ones. I love telling this story because it’s pretty much straight from a movie, and people always gush about how romantical it is (and I secretly love it).

The two pups were inseparable, we also had two kitties and everyone got along really well. Rory was always the reliable, calm one, which balanced Bowser’s crazy wild side. She loved swimming and would always be ready to fetch her frisbee. She was a homebody like me and Avery, her favourite spot in the house was the on the living room couch. She’d always sleep by your feet and would snuggle whenever you needed it. What I miss the most is how she would let the baby climb all over her, and she wouldn’t flinch if she tugged her ears. I’m glad her and Madeline had some time together.

Rory was just two days shy of her 9th birthday, and I’m happy to say she had an amazing, loving and fun life. She spent her last week running and playing in the snow trails up north with her brother and cousin. Avery and I are forever thankful that she helped bring us together.

Rest In Peace, Puppy Girl. We know you’re getting lots of belly rubs in doggy heaven now. We miss you, and we love you so much.
Rory Best
March 20, 2004 – March 18, 2013

Give your furry ones a great, big hug for me.

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The Yonge Street 10k Race Report!

But first, some thoughts about the events at the Boston Marathon. We received numerous calls asking if we were there, and are so very appreciative of everyone’s concerns for our safety. It really hits home because three years ago, yes, we were there. Avery was running and I was standing on the sidelines where the second blast went off. After hearing about the events on the news, not only was I terrified for the spectators, but as a runner, I was devastated for everyone that was effected and could not finish. Training for anything is hard work, but training for a marathon, I now realize, is freaking ridiculous. I ran less than 1/4 of what that entails and I (as you will read on to find out) was absolutely spent. Boston is such a renowned race with tough qualifying times, and thousands of runners were robbed of the victory of crossing the finish line to complete what I’m sure was a dream for most. This senseless act, I know, will make runners unit and be stronger than ever. I was reading all of the heroic stories after about finishers sprinting to the nearest hospital to donate blood and how everyone was helping each other and coming together as a community, along with locals who opened up their homes to those in need. This is what runners, along with their family/friends, are all about. Every time you run through your neighbourhood and see another runner, you instantly have that mutual respect for one another. I’ve witnessed friendships being made DURING a race. I’ve come to learn that this passionate sport is more than what it appears, and it encompasses a deep meaningful gratification for each person, whether it be running to get into shape, running for a cause, running for personal goals, or simply running for the enjoyment. The Yonge Street 10k is meaningful to me because it’s for all of the above. These thoughts ran through my mind all week, and from seeing so many blue and yellow supporters the day of TYS10K, I could tell it was on the mind of my fellow runners as well.

This was my first 10k race, and my third post-baby race. Looking back at how far I’ve come over the past year, as Madeline will be turning a year old next month, I am extremely satisfied with my running progress. Finally, I have a 10k under my belt! And I cannot believe I finished at 59:55. Having never raced this distance before, I felt absolutely no pressure to beat any previous records and I had a great sleep the night before. I used to get crazy pre-race jitters (read about my first race EVER here) but I don’t know if I will experience that nervousness again after being humbled by such big physical changes of having a baby and being forced to start from scratch. With no intention to use the “I had a baby” excuse, it is what it is and I need to remind myself that it will take time, probably a long time, before I’m back to my old self again. I also need to keep telling myself that “The Combo” still applies (a bunch of factors that play into each race: Weather, Training, Nutrition, Race Route — these are the major variables, but there’s also the obvious physical structure of your body as well).

It was a blistering morning in Toronto on Race Day, it bloody snowed the day before!!! A lot of people expected to run in shorts and a t-shirt but succumbed to tights and long sleeves. The only negative thing about this popular race is that there is nowhere to hide inside before gun time. The streets are packed with 5,000+ runners at 8am on a Sunday and every coffee place is jammed. Had I warmed up before going to our corral, I truly believe I would’ve run faster (this is why I love Around the Bay). Anyway, one of my best gals offered to run with me and I couldn’t have been more excited! She paced me at my first post-baby race back in the fall and I crushed my goal so I knew this was a sign of good things to come. Avery gave me a simple training plan for the month and I stuck to it, but I only ran the full 10k once during practice. I was optimistic because that was a great run (as per my last post), but I kept my time a secret incase I didn’t do better in the race. I told Angela my pace goals and unbeknownst to both of us, my estimated times went completely out the window as soon as we hit the first marker! I usually go out too fast but I felt great and the route was amazing, straight down Yonge Street with only two elevated hills that I could remember, so I kept at it! I really wanted a sub 60 time but my training run was 1:04 so I didn’t think I had it in me to keep the -6:00/k pace. But I managed to push myself more than I ever have before, because it worked! What surprised me during the race but I didn’t realize before, was that because I was used to walking the streets of downtown, it felt like I was cruising through by running and hitting landmarks almost five times faster than if I were strolling around during my lunch break at work!

Avery had already finished (34:36 and placed 38th overall!) and he was waiting for me in front of my office on Front Street. I was so happy to see him during my last leg! He ran with us to the end and I gave all that I could to cross that finish line before the one hour mark. I think I cried in the last 500 metres because I was in so much pain. Then, I looked at my watch and I did it, the first two numbers read 59 and that’s when I smiled the biggest smile I’ve ever had after I finished a race. This was a huge accomplishment for me because even though I always try my best during races, this was twice the distance of what I’m used to and I pushed myself more than I ever did before. I could barely breathe to thank Angela after and was heaving pretty heavily to the point where I thought I needed a medic, but I was ok after walking it off, lol.

Here we are, all smiles after I regained my vision and calmed my body down from the second most strenuous event it’s ever been through (the first was childbirth, of course):

It means a lot that Angela ran with me. Even though my finish time shows up on her results, she’s proud to have run with me and I’m so thankful to have such an incredible friend like her in my life. We’re the same in many ways when it comes to running. We support our fellow friends that are a fan of the sport, and we never talk down on anyone’s running abilities. We are semi-newbies at this, our first running experience was on treadmills back at the condo gym and we didn’t fall in love with it right away, it took some time before we braved the sidewalks and started to embrace it. Avery is partly responsible in getting both of us into running (partly being me entirely and her, somewhat, lol). We set goals for ourselves and always want to beat our PB’s but accept the fact that “The Combo” may not always be in our favour, and we remind each other time and time again that we’re running for ourselves, not for anyone else, especially not for Sportstats! ;) Mostly, we love each other. This pretty lady was one of my bridesmaids and is one of my bestest friends in the world. We tell each other everything, and have shared countless memories. I love running with her, and she’s my favourite pace bunny in the world. If you read my previous post, you’d know that we both achieved our goals at this race :)

One last thing… hubby and I have the same finisher’s medal for once! :D
This is epic, guys.

#TYS10K #RunForBoston

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Well, you know my name is Queenie and I like to do drawerings.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my mat leave replacement starts on Monday so I decided to give her my desk rather than have her settle elsewhere just to move everything to my space in a month. I cleaned out my drawers, tidied and gathered my things to a temporary desk we usually save for freelancers. All of my physical files are now compacted into a little portable cabinet. Albeit leaving a collection of toys on the shelf, I did a pretty good job prepping the area so she can make it her own. I was kind of taken aback when I looked at my desk after. I remember the first day I started as a freelancer, a week later I accepted a one-year contract, then I was offered a full-time position… that was four years ago. I never thought I’d be working at the head office of a toy company in my professional career — I have to admit, it’s quite the dream come true. Actually, if it weren’t for my card business, I wouldn’t have had my lucky break. I submitted my resume on the company website and HR took note of queenie’s cards and that’s what prompted “the call.” I was thrilled that my work spoke for itself. My now colleagues flipped through my portfolio at my initial interview and, apparently, also saw the potential to mould me into shape, and that was that!

Even though my focus has shifted a tiny bit from my cards lately (being pregnant is a totally legit excuse!), I’m so glad I kept it going all these years because I love having my own side business. It’s a creative escape for me and I even make a little profit doing it. Plus, it also saves me time and money at Hallmark at least 10 times each year.

My bottom line is that your hobbies and personal interests are important. Don’t give it up because you think it won’t come to anything. There’s always the issue with not having the time, but it isn’t a chore and shouldn’t seem like one. If you like it enough you will make time. I was unhappy with my previous job and art was the one constant interest I’ve always had, so I pursued it and I’m fortunate that it led me down this path. Even if it doesn’t amount to anything, it doesn’t matter because you’re doing what you love. Be it something artsy, a sport, cooking, or collecting cookie jars (Victor Nightingale, anyone? Fine, he had to get rid of it but he was the Collector of the Year and he was happy!)…

Who knows where your hobby might lead you?

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My 1st Running Season Comes to an End

This morning, I finished my fourth race, EVER! Avery earned some major points for being my pace bunny. I ran the tune-up back in late August and I knew the 3rd and 4th k were going to be hard. Going uphill on Avenue Road is a damn struggle (for me, anyway). And as predicted, my pace fell way over and I was lagging, this was when I felt knots in my stomach and wanted to stop. I got cramps and didn’t think I’d last another second. But alas, hubby carried me through and I managed to cross the finish at 26:19. I was hoping/aiming for a sub 26 but after almost hurling on the kid that handed me my medal, I’ll take the time, lol. I definitely have a bug, I was feeling crappy all of yesterday. Betcha can’t tell by my smile!

Jackie (her first race!), Me and Avery

So, my 2011 results!

It baffles me that my best time is my first race. I’ve had better practice runs, but I now know summer running should definitely be in its own category. The humidity this year was grueling to the point where my pace was sometimes a minute slower than in the spring.

One more thing that I must add to “The Combo” is the RACE ROUTE. This goes hand-in-hand with weather, because if there’s gusts of wind blowing in your face while you’re trying to run on anything with elevation, you’re screwed. Today’s course was actually pretty good, I’m surprised the traffic cops were on the ball with every major intersection and cars/pedestrians didn’t seem completely pissed off. I would do this race again; look at the pretty girly prize!

I’ve learned a lot from running, believe it or not. Most importantly, to not compare myself to others. I always thought my times could be better and it’s true, they could, but I damn well give it my all during races, and that’s all I can do. There’s so many aspects to having a great run, and the combination of various elements makes all the difference: Weather, Race Route, Training and Nutrition (there’s several others such as your physical structure, your mood on race day etc, but I think these four are the main ones). All in all, I’m really glad my hubby introduced me to the world of running and I hope to do longer distances next year. I’ve been working on my 10k’s and so far my best is 55:50 in a training run and I know I can knock off a minute or so.

Now, I can start climbing again. I’ve been so obsessed with running, I haven’t been to TCA in months. I haven’t used my Flirty Girl membership either, oops. It’s my birthday weekend this upcoming Saturday, then my actual birthday is next Wednesday so I intend on eating a whole crap ton of junk. We’re in Chicago in October for Avery’s marathon and our first wedding anniversary, so we’re starting to map out our schedule in the Windy City. Deep pan pizza galore!

I’m going to nap… ’til next time!

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You’ve Got Mail (real mail, in the mailbox, delivered by the postman)

Did you ever have pen pals? I had a handful in junior high. It’s a shame kids these days have despicable writing skills (well, this doesn’t limit to children), yet they can finish a video game in one night (again, this doesn’t limit to children). It was exciting to receive letters from someone my age whom I’ve never met before, to find out who they were and discover our different lifestyles. Often times I was surprised at how much we had in common too. We eventually started sending each other photos and gifts pretty regularly. It was an odd but comforting concept to me; I made friends through solely communicating on paper, on the other side of the world, no less.

Of course, the world has changed and I, like everyone else, take full advantage of the convenience that is email and I, even as an owner of a greeting card business, will admit I don’t send cards as much as I should. But even though I’m guilty of lengthy emails, I think it’s important to take your hands off the keyboard and pick up a pen every now and then. One of the reasons why I want to keep the tradition of greeting cards alive is because I love the feeling of receiving an envelope with my name on it, knowing it came from someone I care for, and who obviously feels the same about me. Before the Internet took over, letters used to be personal and had substance. Nowadays, you usually only get bills and junk in the mail. When Canada Post was on strike, no one seemed to care, everyone just tweeted that everything is electronically delivered anyway and postal services are obsolete — I beg to differ. A few months later, I read that a short-sighted 91-year-old British man had been mistakenly putting his letters into a dog waste disposal box for two years! I was on the brink of tears. This reaffirms there are still people who need mailboxes (and that London seriously needs to paint their garbage bins a different colour! – Try green).

Since I was very young, my parents have always celebrated special occasions by marking them with a card, and they still do. With my dad being a graphic illustrator and designer, his impeccable taste of unique cards over the years encouraged me to eventually dabble in creating my own designs, evolving into queenie’s cards. The difference between keeping a card and printing out an email is that reminiscing a piece of 8.5” x 11” paper doesn’t do the message justice, despite the amount of emoticons used. Sure, it’s convenient for the sender, but consider the sentimental value of having a card for a keepsake. Also, how many times have you received the same birthday or holiday card? Honestly, one year in high school I received the same Christmas card 6 times!

Just something to keep in mind next time you’re deciding between an e-card (which may get deleted, sent to the spam box, will expire, and is not tangible unless you hit print-screen and save it as a JPG and print it out) OR mailing a thoughtful hand-written card that at least provides the option of safe-keeping.

:)

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Pre-race jitters, again!

There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting on a swinging chair in your back deck, listening to the birds chirping while you’re blogging away on a sunny day (oh, and with two big golden retrievers sleeping by your feet too). So then why do I have butterflies in my stomach? Pre-race jitters! I always get them before the weekend of every race. Sunday is Toronto’s Acura 10-Miler and 5k starting at 8:30am in the Distillery District. We’ll be going back to our wedding venue which is a treat, and a bunch of our friends are running too so the plan is to have brunch after.

Running in the summer absolutely sucks. The heat and humidity is daunting, and it’s hard to reach PB’s — at least for me. For the simple reason that this weather is why there aren’t a lot of marathons in the summer speaks volumes. Nonetheless, training is essential year-round, and alas, I will be doing an easy 4k after I finish this post. Because I’ve been running so darn much, I haven’t climbed or cycled in months. I haven’t gone to Flirty Girl since last year. It’s like a crazy addiction that I can’t shake off. I know it’s the competitiveness inside me that causes it, because I’ve never entered any climbing/cycling contests, but running with a timing chip makes it so much more intense.

To calm my nerves, I’m seeing Billy Elliot with my mom tomorrow afternoon. We have kickass seats, smack in the middle of the orchestra. I’ve been wanting to go for a while and it’s received rave reviews.

Ok, time for a one last run. Eeep!

Second race together!

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