Word-Of-The-Year 2019

I’ve been trying to make time to contemplate my 2019 word of the year but this has been such a busy end of year for us! After forcing myself to pause and look back on my last words-of-the-year I realized how important it was to choose a word and choose one with intention. It turned out to be very fortuitous to have 2018’s word be “reset.” Sticking to it was sometimes a challenge but having it, especially mid year, as a guide for some decision making was very helpful. I wanted to reset a lot of the foundations in my business and life for that matter, since so many things in my life were changing (a new baby, a shift in my business, and new desires for a work-life balance). Turns out I also needed a ‘reset’ to tidy up my life because I would be preparing for ANOTHER baby! It has been quite the year for setting new ground work on all fronts and I’m glad to feel like I’m starting out strong.
My 2019 will bring a lot of hurdles so I want a word that I can frequently look back on to keep myself on track and answer any looming doubts on ‘is this the right time for such and such.’ I’ve decided my word for 2019 is *Present.* I want to be truly present in all the work and projects I take on while still being present for my family and every milestone we encounter. I don’t want to lose sight of any special moments in my daughter’s (or son’s😳) young life because I am helping someone else prepare for their special moment. Additionally, I don’t want to lose myself and what is important for me to do and build during this time when I know my babies won’t be little forever and I’ll need to have things of my own.
You might be wondering HOW I’m planning to stay present. I admit I haven’t totally figured that out yet for every turn but I think just recognizing the necessity is the first step. I’ll be checking in with myself every month to be sure the decisions I’m making are staying true to my word and philosophy for the year. I still want to make goals but goals on my terms. I hope I won’t be afraid to quit something or pass on an opportunity if it isn’t aligning.
A few personal goals:
  • Read Present over Perfect– I hear its great and this seems like the perfect time to give it a try.
  • Reassess my podcasts- I love podcasts but a few are becoming a distraction. Sometimes I feel I need to listen through to the end even if I’m not interested so I want to get rid of that pressure.
  • Collaborate- I’m not sure how I’m going to do this this year but I’m enjoying brainstorming and hope to seek out some cool opportunities.
  • Continue to engage locally / in person- It takes some additional effort but I think it is so important to keep up with friends/people in the biz and my best way to do that is in person. I just can’t replace or come close any other way.

I’m excited for all the juggling that will be going on this year and to see where it takes me. I definitely plan to let things happen more organically than try to force too much on myself during a year filled with some many adjustments to be made.


2018 Year in Review

newyear2What wasn’t successful or I didn’t enjoy: 
Only working on digital graphics/assets.
I was advised several times by several knowledgeable people to only dabble in digital products because it’s easier on your time, taxes and sanity. Once I launched, I knew I couldn’t only sell digital graphics. I missed that extra design component that I was encouraging so many others to do. I also kept coming up with ideas and ways to use my graphics that made me feel like I was missing out or holding back. Launching my product line at the end of the year has made me appreciate what my digital products are and knowing there is a place for both digital and tangible products at MALWEST design.
Relying on naptime to do work.
Maybe with two naps a day I could get a few things done but with a toddler and going down to a single nap (and not a very good one at that) working and keeping the house together was a struggle. I didn’t like choosing between a tidying and working because working in my business always suffered.
What surprised me: 
Friends make the best clients.
I always thought my clients had to be strangers that could look at my work and just know and trust me with an instant connection. That initially chemistry is very hard to find especially in the saturated online sphere. I worked with so many more clients this year that we’re friends or people I knew in other capacities and I think it made all the difference. My favorite aspect of working with any of my clients is the ongoing relationship we build so I’m happy to get a jump start on that with people I already know and love.
What’s ahead for 2019: 
Keeping my shop going not growing. With a baby soon to make his debut I don’t want to over commit myself. My word of the year is *present* and I want to keep myself present for every project, event, endeavor I take on without losing these precious early moments with my kiddos. I still want to only take clients/projects I love and that align with my aesthetic. I want to push myself creatively, but I’ve loved having my voice and style come through and want to keep that momentum going.
Courses: I’ve purchased two courses in 2018 that I want to work through in 2019. First is Ashlyn Carter’s hefty course: Copywriting For Creatives that helped me with my website but a course and I need and want to finis h that will apply to many aspects of my business.
Second, is Paper and Spark’s Asana For Makers. So many good tips and tricks in this for staying organized and working in varying lengths of time. I’ve started but I can’t wait to implement more.
Goals: keep my website and Etsy shop up to date. I want to use both of those more and learn how to maximize growth from them as tools.

5 Lessons Learned as a Mompreneur

My daughter is turning ONE. It has gone by so fast but also feels like life without her just never existed. I’m getting nostalgic as I reflect on L’s first year of life, my baby is so big!

I’ve learned so much in the last 12 months having the little squirt home with me full-time and juggling work as a creative entrepreneur = mompreneur. She has taught me endless lessons and I’ve changed significantly but there are a few things she’s really drilled into me that also applies to my creative work and practices:
  1. Slow the heck down
    Ok so she’s has MADE me slow down, immensely. Talk about a crash course in patience. I’ve had to let all those multitasking dreams, get up and go attitude and  focus-focus mindset go and just play peekaboo for the millionth time because it makes for one happy baby. Also, resting and being present in the moment can be pretty great too.
  2. Done is better than perfect 
    So, I was already working on this one but the little babe just helped push me over the edge to ‘team good enough.’ Designers can get so knit picky and sometimes you just gotta let it go because no one else will know (or care!) that that single pixel is out of place.
  3. Finish what you start 
    Ok, seems obvious but now I really don’t have time to jump back into something or get back on that same train of thought so I gotta wrap it up and not leave anything half baked or without a plan for the next step. (This is really for personal projects and content creation that has no urgency to dive back in).
  4. The art of distraction
    You can get over almost anything if you’re well distracted. Sometimes it’s an emotional rollercoaster over here but you gotta harness that and put it to good use!
  5. A brighter tomorrow
    If you have a no good, very bad day just hold out until tomorrow to make a 180. In work you may just need to give it a rest until you’re in a better (perhaps more rested) state of mind. Almost always if L had a whiny, irritable day her best day follows.

One2017-07-31 18.06.02


Working list of 2018 goals

These are my work and life goals. I plan to revisit them each quarter and add to them, amend them or just make sure I’m accomplishing something! Any must haves send my way!
  • Read more novels (I guess a business book or two too)
  • Visit the beach more– it’s only 15 minutes away!
  • Share more of my work and process
  • Get my studio lookin’ good!
  • Travel! Get something fun going on every month even if its just a day trip
  • Spruce up my brand
  • Get some awesome copy — taking copywriter suggestions!
  • Invite friends over for drinks/dinner more often
  • Keep up with my online friends! Do some skyping/direct connections. “Likes” are great but don’t count!
  • Get more involved in the local art scene
  • Goals

Word of the Year

If you follow me, by now you know my word for the year is “reset.”

I’m very excited for what 2018 will bring to my business and family. I hope to make decisions in my business remembering the word I chose to guide me throughout the year.

I don’t need more or bigger or new —I just want to focus on better. This is not a year of pitching, searching or starting fresh (I hope!!) but one where I use my non-client time in MALWEST to grease the hinges of my business. By that handy metaphor I mean refinement. I want to get back to my core values and apply avenues to uphold them moving forward.
RESET defined:
To set again or differently
  •  to move (something) back to an original place or position
  • : to put (a broken bone) back in the correct position for healing
  • : to put (a gem) into a new piece of jewelry
So often we are pressed for time and have to make a snap decision on programs we use or subscriptions we sign up for. This year I want to re-examine and choose the best options after more research. Things may run efficiently but there may be an even better way—as business owners there is no one over our shoulder telling us what is right or best so I want to take the time and figure it out for me and my biz.
Questions I’ll ask myself:
How am I spending my time and energy?
How can I make little things better— processes?
What is important to me? Not just what is in right now or trending.
Do you or your business have a word of the year? Any helpful ways to keep it top of mind all year long?
Mal reset

Designing Life Part 2

*If you haven’t read part 1 of my birth story (which includes the actual birth) I suggest reading that first. See post HERE.
I think the blurriness of the days following your birth are important to remember and, for me, is crucial to my birth story. Let’s just say it ain’t over till it’s over. Thanks for reading!
I delivered on a Saturday evening and wasn’t released from the hospital until Tuesday afternoon. “Released” makes it sound like prison. It did feel like a form of motherhood hazing meets prison lockdown. I never saw the weather outside during my hospital stay and only left my hospital bed to use the bathroom and *occasionally* pick up my baby (when I felt too guilty to continually wake her exhausted father just to pick her up for a feeding<< in retrospect this guilt was extremely unnecessary!) Only once did I leave my hospital room during those long, sleepless days and that was to supervise my baby’s first bath a few hours after giving birth. The bath was mandatory by the hospital staff and I was so supped up on adrenaline that I didn’t want to miss a thing. The stroll down the hall turned out to be a bad idea since I nearly passed out next to the post bath baby warmer. Somehow I had forgotten I had just endured a natural child birth and lost a lot of blood in the process only a few short hours beforehand. Well, I shouldn’t say I had forgotten… more like got too distracted to realize that that first exhausting day/night wasn’t actually several days behind me like it felt. Fortunately, a nurse was called to wheel me back to my room before I passed out at the bathing station.
Somehow we made it to Tuesday, release day, despite the constant hourly check ups and zero sunlight. Once the babe and I passed all of our tests we were approved for dismissal. I was prepared to have our car seat fully examined but with a quick nod from the nurse we were left to our own devices. Jake and I were excited about our new freedom. We weren’t sure what to do, just the three of us at home but we managed to squeeze in some sleep and started getting back a little familiarity in our lives.
Wednesday, the next day, I woke up still energetic thanks to my healthy dose of freedom and a pretty content baby. I even got a chance to do a little design work and touch base with a few clients while the baby napped. I was thinking, “man, I’m killing it!” I was even appreciating having that natural child birth and the burst of energy it left me (note in previous post that natural wasn’t my first or second birth preference.) It felt good to get back to having a few things under control and back to a semblance of “normal” routine.  Our first full day home was turning out to be a walk in the park. After a few family members stopped by to visit we begin to prep for our night (everything exciting happens at night, right?) The next thing I know, I am passing a very large blood clot followed by a continuous stream of bright red blood. My heart sank as I realized this meant a trip back to the hospital and that our night was just beginning.
It’s after 10 pm and I go straight into crisis mode; fortunately I work really well in that state (I’m also still feeling amazing from all my accomplishments during the day). I tell Jake to call my mom to come over to watch the baby as I wrap up my lower half in towels in an effort to save our new car from a blood bath. Thankfully I had just fed the baby (not an easy feat, but breastfeeding is a story for another time) so I knew she would be ok for a bit and my mom lives only 5 minutes down the road. On our way to the hospital I call my doctor who recommends I go back to the OB emergency care center to get checked out. I am still under the impression this could be a quick fix (again as if any trip the hospital is ever quick) and I can be back to my baby in a matter of hours- probably by the next feeding! cause that is how awesome my day was going.
We arrive at the front of the hospital and I’m quickly hit with dejavu. Jake leaves the car at the front, hazards lights on this time. Miraculously I managed to not bleed all over our new car but decide to take it slow this time and accept a wheelchair ride so maybe I won’t strip my stitches or cause any further damage. We are admitted at the same place I gave birth, and low and behold my same OBGYN who checked us in for the birth is there to check me out, yet again. I don’t think he was too excited to see us for the third time in one week, but we could all agree on that. He investigates the source of the bleeding with a vaginal ultrasound and warns that it could be painful. I remind him I just had a natural childbirth and he agrees that if you can handle that pain this will be nothing. Ladies, itwasnothing in comparison BUT, I assure you, itissomething compared to a pre-birth ultrasound. He calls and consults with my doctor and they determine I have birthing remnants in my uterus that need to be removed as soon as possible but isn’t “immediately urgent” now that the bleeding has been controlled.  Ultimately, this means the fam is moving back in.
In order to save my spot for an OR the next day we had to remain checked in. I couldn’t leave the hospital, no overnight bag in hand mind you, and I would have to have a D and C procedure under anesthesia to remove the placenta or whatever was left over in my uterus. My stitches would also have to be redone. Great. Jakes dashes home to bring our baby back since by this point she is way past her next feeding– just another something to juggle and add to the mix.
We were told I can have the procedure in the morning and check out by that evening. If you haven’t noticed a trend yet it’s that you never leave the hospital on time. As it turns out, there are no open ORs until early afternoon. To prep for the procedure I was given a hospital grade pump so my babe could eat in case I was gone too long for her feedings. We hadn’t bought our pump yet (mama’s get on that sooner than later) and I had no idea how to use one! Fortunately, the nursing staff is awesome and a nurse put the pieces together for me and showed me what to do. At least I got a professional demonstration!
Finally I am wheeled down to the OR where I wait, freezing, and the only person sitting alone. I tried to get a few minutes here and there of shut eye between nurses and doctors stopping in to poke and prep me. I suppose my veins had given out because several nurses couldn’t get the >>> to stay and work. Once they’re ready I’m quickly out for the count. When I wake I’m groggy, thirsty, freezing and tired. More waiting in post-op as the nurse buries me under warm blankets— bring ‘em on. At first I wasn’t sure if I was seeing/hearing things but I heard a familiar voice among the nurses. Sure enough a woman walked by and I called to he— it was my neighbor growing up. It was nice to see a friendly and familiar face. Major points for a small town! She later came by my room and met the family and my baby.
Back at the room I am wheeled back to my mom, husband and baby. They were great— made it through the past few hours with ease. It was a relief to know everyone was helping with the babe even if it meant I did a lot of waiting alone (seriously didn’t hate the solitude, they even let me turn off the lights in my waiting cubicle). Even though it was only early evening they wanted me to stay overnight for observation. As annoying as it was to stay yet another night at the hospital I think it turned out to be a good idea. The procedure/anesthesia left me a lot more tired and weak than I had been. Nothing like getting knocked out to take you down a peg.
The next few days home were a little more back to reality. I was much weaker and more exhausted than the last go round. I also had to go back and explain to friends and family that while I had such a burst of energy before, I now was starting the healing process all over and would be much more sluggish. So, I guess after this experience a natural child birth isn’t looking as bad— which apparently is a good thing since, according to the nursing staff, any future baby is gonna shoot out of me double time!
Some of what I learned: A good nursing staff means everything. Witch Hazel and ice are your friend. You don’t have to, can’t and won’t know everything. When in doubt you’ll figure it out.Pain tolerance is subjective but I definitely learned to communicate mine more effectively!
2017-06-04 20.47.54

Designing Life: a graphic designer’s birth story

Graphic designers are known to be control freaks. We are detail oriented planners who set up rules and regulations for brands to follow.  We love our to do lists, setting and following guidelines, choosing what’s above the fold etc. I am well aware of this personality trait of mine, so when I was embarking on motherhood I knew I’d have to loosen up a whole heck of a lot. As a first time mom, there were so many things to obsess over but I was determined to make a conscious effort to relax about my birth plan. I decided I’d be very go with the flowwhich to me meant make no set plan. I knew I wanted an epidural and was shooting for a vaginal birth (seemed pretty standard) but was mentally preparing for the necessity of a c-section, just in case. I even took the birth classes so I’d have full exposure to possibilities and how to cope with my optionstotally covering my bases (so I thought)!

40 weeks pregnant rolls around and to my dismay, no baby. At my 40 week appointment my cervix was still completely closed. I had only even felt maybe one Braxton Hicks contraction throughout my entire 40 weeks, but I wasn’t even sure about that! The silver lining to this appointment is my doctor agreed to induce me at 41 weeks on the dot. Induction: not my initial or ideal “plan” but I warmed up to that idea realllly fast (at this point I thought any exit strategy would be ideal).

After adjusting my expectations, I awoke early the next morning to what I believed to be a few contractions. Excited at the prospect of something happening I clocked my contractions until they were coming about 5 minutes apart. After a lot of deliberation we decided I should swing by the hospital, get my cervix checked and just to see if there are any updates (not expecting to stay but maybe to get an idea if things can be sped up a little).

The OB Emergency Center was pretty quiet for the holiday weekend so far but, like all quick hospital drop-ins, the visit took forever! I felt like the staff looked at us like we were silly for wasting our weekend afternoon when I wasn’t huffing and puffing in pain. Fortunately, they seemed less put out when they learned I was full term and the machines confirmed my growing contractions. My cervix had only opened 1 cm (out of 10) so they did not consider it much progress. Being that it was my first baby the doctor and nurses said labor will take a long time so they recommended I go home and eat a meal, take a napprobably through the night, and take a brisk walk to get that baby moving. They said we’ll maybe see you in 24 to 48 hours at least to get this party started and to come back when the contractions hurt so much you can’t talk or breathe through them. At this point it’s after 4pm and my contractions have grown to be uncomfortable and occurring every 3 minutes.

Once we get back home (after an ice cream stop) taking a nap felt like a joke so we decide to take the brisk (and miserable) walk to my mom’s house a few blocks away and back. I’m sure my heavy breathing and breaks every three minutes for a contraction terrified the neighbors, but we did it. Next up is food and/or sleep. Eating anything is no longer an option and neither is sitting much less laying down. I took Tylenol, a trick the nurses suggested, to help the pain and to determine if it’s the real deal or not (if there’s no pain relief then it’s the real deal labor.) Trying to avoid another unnecessary stop at the hospital I waited 1 hour to see if the meds would kick in. I force myself to shower and my nausea comes back. Finally, I’m so miserable I tell my husband, Jake,  we have to go back to the hospital. It’s about 8:30 pm and I waddle to the car my mind only focused on all the real pain meds I’d be getting soon.

We pull up to the hospital and I tell Jake we have to leave the car at the frontno time for parking. Woman on a mission I can’t wait for a wheel chair and book it back to the OB Emergency Center. When I enter there are no questionable looks this time. Despite the very busy waiting area I was immediately made a priority. Jake begins filling out the paperwork as they prep a room for me. I require Jake to stand in the doorway to flag down the doctor immediately. We aren’t usually pushy people but I was not waiting around this time. Fortunately, my pain was very visible and audible so nurses and staff were bustling around to help us. In fact it was my same doctor from a few hours earlier. Jake never makes it back to the car and the doctor reports that I am at 7 cm. The nurses looked shocked as they nod approvingly and congratulate me on the success of that brisk walk. They tell me they are prepping my room in labor and delivery and ask if I want an epidural- I respond “I want all the drugs!”

In minutes I am wheeled in the most uncomfortable wheelchair down to the labor and delivery room but not before my water breaks all over the Emergency Care room. Once we make it to our destination the bustling nurses have cleared and it’s just me, Jake and our delivery nurse, Melissa. As I get into the bed I ask Melissa if my epidural is here, as a clever reminder that I’m ready for it! She quickly checks me and cool and calmly tells me it’s too late and I will not be getting the epidural. My eyes get wide and I respond, “fffff*ck” (I went from 7cm to 10cm in a matter of minutes!) Melissa replies “f*ck is right, but you can do this”. I turn to Jake and say, “This is my nightmare.” In all of my birth plan assessment I knew a natural childbirth could happen, and certainly felt sorry for those ladies, but didn’t think it could ACTUALLY happen to me. Jake attempts to reassure me as I’m convinced I’m not going make it. Alternatively, there is too much pain to really panic so I just do what I’m tolda Jesus and Melissa take-the-wheel moment. Fortunately, Melissa’s calm and helpful demeanor is wonderful, but it’s not over yet. The next hurdle is keeping the baby in until my doctor gets here to deliver. It’s not even my doctor on the way but one of her partners who is on call for the weekend (and I haven’t met), but again there was no time or energy to panic about that.

What feels like an eternity goes by as I hold in every urge to push. I can only focus on the door and the clock as I await the doctor and Melissa gets us prepped for pushing. Barely holding on, I finally see the doctor walk in and it’s go time. It takes three contractions and less than 10 minutes to push my baby all the way out. I felt every little wiggle as she exited and it was amazing. She proceeded to poop all over my stomach and I didn’t even care because she was perfect and I felt like a rock star!

Follow up:

Our car thankfully did not get towed. I was only at the hospital an hour and a half (the second time). There was no time to call family to be at the birth (which was a-ok with us!) I had second degree tearing, which I was told was normal. If I could do anything all over again I don’t think I’d change a thing. Except maybe doing more kegels 🙂

Check back soon for a post about my first week with baby… it’s not exactly part of the birth story but we do make another trip back to our favorite OB Emergency Care…!

Letter A Day Project


I started my letter a day project April 2016, just two days before we bought a house! My husband and I were currently homeless, living in separate cities out of boxes and suitcases and road tripping constantly but I decided there was no time like the present to start a side project. Maybe not my most practical decision, but in my defense, I had just attended a design conference (Creative South) and was feeling extremely inspired and ready to hit the ground running!

I was feeling pretty creative and ready to just create but I did realize I had a lot going on. I decided taking a little time out of my workday to create a simple letter was something I could swing. Some days I had a couple hours to play- others I only had the energy for a few minutes to scramble and get something together. A true test of self discipline.

Now these letters were never meant to be seen as shown above- all together. So definitely cut me some slack because it looks like a jumbled mess between the designs, colors and even those Instagram filters that were so fitting of my mood at the time. Additionally, I feel it’s important to note if you don’t follow me on Insta that I started the letters in reverse order beginning at the end of the alphabet with the letter “Z.”

It has been a few months now since I completed this project and I feel like I learned so much about my own process – I even still love a few of my letters! (always a struggle for overly critical designers/overly critical=designers) This process forced me to create something and post it whether it was good or finished or neither. It’s cool to look back and see a few of the letters that reflect my day; it feels like an insider because I remember what was happening and what I was feeling when I made it. Since I was moving and traveling during that period there were a lot of things I simply had to let go. It was also really nice to work on something that other people would see but their opinion really wouldn’t matter since the letter wasn’t for client or anyone, not even myself. I never thought creating something to basically throw it away would ever be so liberating!  I might even do it again.  I do have something in the works that came from this little project so I hope to tackle something similar that will be just as fulfilling.

xx, Mal



Home Design: Updating with Wallpaper

The 2016 summer months have been filled with home renovations following our relocation to Pensacola, FL. We bought a house built in 1938 that has been updated periodically which is filled with plenty of charm and potential. There were endless days of painting, scrubbing and power-tooling (drilling, sanding and the like) that made our arms/neck/back ache for a week; however, when a room is complete you remember why you’ve been putting in that elbow grease.
Not the first room to undergo a makeover, but definitely one of the truest labors of love in the house is the half bath. I loved the bead board that was existing, although it did need a lot of attention. Since wall area minus the beach board is such a small space-and I knew something had to be done about that overwhelming salmon color-I had the brilliant idea to take my first stab ever at wallpapering. When all was said and done, I am pleased with the results but it will probably be my first and last experience wallpapering! (At least I chose my favorite paper from RiflePaperCo!!)


I do not wish to discourage the creatively adventurous nature in anyone, but wallpapering was much harder than I imagined. Even after watching as many youtube videos I could find about easy wallpapering, my best advice to someone so determined is to stick with an accent wall or piece of furniture (like a bookcase).
My final piece of advice is to pick a paper you love! I think I would have given up if I had picked one of the cheaper options I tried to talk myself into. Originally I thought this paper was too expensive for a beginner like me but even though the application is not perfect, I love it!

Process shots from wallpapering:


Details from the final walls and the cutest sink you’ve ever seen:


Summer Melon Daze

Some days you just have to play around and remember all the little changes you can make to create. I love patterns so recreating using these watercolor watermelons I did a while back is fun and easy. As designers, many projects we labor over for so long trying to perfect every detail; therefore any quick creative gratification is refreshing!

Watermelon art 3


Watermelon art


Watermelon art2