Gift Guides

Holiday Gift Guide- For the Graduate Student

 

phd or graduate student holiday gift guide

 

I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and share some gift guides for this holiday season. Up first, gifts for the graduate/PhD student in your life. These selections are of high quality, are long lasting, will leave an impact, and surely be appreciated.

Personalized

1// Personalized correspondence cards are always an appropriate gift. Writing on and sending personalized stationary is a diminishing art and one should not underestimate the impact of writing handwritten notes following interviews or to thank a professor for going out of their way to help in some way. Whether you choose to include the graduate students title (an especially lovely option if they are a recently minted PhD), choose a traditional monogram, or simply use their name, this gift will surely please and will prove quite useful for future endeavors. I own this set and love it. This is also a fantastic option.

2// Cuff links are always a great option for men. There are so many fun ones available, but this pair is both understated and classy. Perfect for any conference, interview, or formal event.

3// If you want your PhD student to feel special, to provide motivation to continue working toward graduation, or to celebrate a successful defense, a personalized glass or mug with their current or future title etched or engraved is an excellent option.

4// Initial necklace. This is simple, can be dressed up or down, and will never go out of style. Perfect for the student of any age.

 

On the Go

1// Monogrammed luggage tags are sure to be appreciated for all business and leisure travel.

2// A rolling suitcase (splurge) (save) is a most welcome accessory for business trips and conference presentations. Likewise, a quality garment bag used to store suits and professional business attire is essential (less expensive option).

3// A chic travel bag to hold personal items and technology (and that spare pair of flats to change into once the interview/presentation is over) is a must. The Lo & Sons O.M.G. bag provides organization and protection from the elements. A larger size is also available. As an added bonus, there is a sleeve which can be used to fit over a luggage handle. This tote by Longchamp will forever be in style. If you are looking for a more traditional purse that can be used in meetings or at presentations, this bag and this bag are great options.

4// Men will love this leather messenger bag. It is well-made and can be used both traveling and on the job.

5// A quality wallet will surely help one feel professional. I love both this option and this option. This bifold is a great option for men.

 

Technology

1// A tablet is an amazing gift at any point. Used to check email, update calendars, read and edit documents, or play Candy Crush, this is sure to be a highly utilized gift. Apple offers this smaller version. Drew test drove this Microsoft model in the store and loved it. Finally, I have been using this Samsung model for the past three years (also available in a larger size) and have found it essential to boosting my methods of productivity and procrastination.

2// A phone case is always a great option. This iPhone case offers extended battery life.

3// Any and all photo opportunities can be captured either with a new DSLR camera or with this sleeker and more portable option.

 

Planning and Time

1// A paper planner will forever be useful. This zip-option is an upgrade and this one can be personalized. Moleskine planners are forever chic, and I have loved using this Lilly planner (so much fun with the prints and stickers) in the past.

2// Nothing says professional like a watch. I love love love my Kate Spade Seaport watch. The Gramercy is an amazing option as well. This option has a nice night vision feature for him.

 

For the Home

1// Most time now-a-days is spent in front of the computer reading, editing, and researching. Why not invest in a nice office chair (or ball)?

2// Nice bedding and monogrammed towels are always amazing gifts- for graduate students and not!

3// Nothing helps boost confidence better than a steamer to eliminate wrinkles. This portable steamer is a must-have for business/conference travel.

 

I hope you enjoy! I would love to hear what you think about these selections. Grad students, what would you add to this list?

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A Week in Brief Review…and guess what?! I AM PUBLISHED!!!

This week has been a blur. I am in the thick of finals–three extra long term papers and two extra important presentations due withing the next four days as well as an exam to prep for. This is all in addition to working at the Cancer Center 20 hours a week and doing my combined research/assessment assistanceship for 20 hours. On the not so positive side, I have had to deal with a patriarchal and egotistical supervisor who seems bent on making me (and every other woman he works with) feel belittled and disempowered (I am going to write a post on this and being a woman in higher education in the near future).

On a more positive note, Drew and I were able to spend Thursday evening enjoying the company of the Charlotte Culture and Couth Club. We LOVE this group. We meet every other month of so for dinner at a new local restaurant followed by the newest play at Charlotte’s Actors Theater. Dinner this time was at 300 East in Dilworth. I love this part of town and the restaurant was so cute! It is in an old home and has been in operation for over 25 years–which is saying something in the every changing up-town area of Charlotte! I had the Salmon Croquettes which were absolutely delicious and Drew had the Hanger Steak which he loved. All of the meats, cheeses, and vegetables are seasonal and locally sourced. The decor was cute and cozy as well. I violated the cardinal rule of bloggers near and far and FORGOT TO TAKE PICTURES,  so this little gem is taken from the website.

300 east exterior

I hear their Sunday brunch is amazing….we are already planning our next trip there.

 

The Actor’s Theater is one of my favorite places in Charlotte. They are known for pushing the boundaries in terms of content/topics and for stellar performances. This month’s production was “The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical”. I almost just want to let the show poster speak for itself….

the great american trailer park christmas musical

The show was HILARIOUS. I think Drew and I were practically in tears at several points. The cast did a phenomenal job and I was so impressed with the entire production–from the set, to the singing, to the (totally moderately inappropriate songs)! We had such a fun time and if you are in the Charlotte, NC area this month and want an untraditionally good time, I highly recommend trying to make a show. The theater is currently running a holiday special as well. For a limited time, you can purchase a package of 2 tickets to each of the  three remaining shows this season (the season runs until May 2016) for a discounted rate. The best part is….the package comes with THIS little gem:

the actors theater ornament

Yes, you are seeing this correctly. You, too, can be the proud owner of your very own Great American Trailer Park Christmas Ornament! Drew and I try to get a new ornament every year and this is ours for 2015. I added the 2015 to the front so we can remember what a great time we had at the show for years to come.

Finally–the most exciting news of all–I AM PUBLISHED! My advisor is pretty much the best and has been so wonderful in giving me the freedom to pursue research that both speaks to me and that I am passionate about. It has made grad school bearable and even FUN at times (I plan to return to this tomorrow after I have been writing constantly for 24+ hours and cramming for exams). He has supported my varied interests and usually lets me go do my own things, only stepping in occasionally to redirect or refocus me (or advise me to stop taking on so many projects). This past summer, he offered me the opportunity to respond to a target article which has been released in the latest issue of Psychological Inquiry in which Eric Garland and colleagues propose a mechanistic model of mindfulness and meaning-making processes. I have been intrigued by the concept of mindfulness for years (I used to meditate before softball games when I was young to help focus and prepare myself). I was so excited to a) get an opportunity to read an advance release of Garland et al.’s model (really cool things are on the academic horizon) and b) to get to begin to try and integrate our work on posttraumatic growth (PTG) with the work on mindfulness. You can check out the article here on my academic website.

I hope you have a great weekend! I am sure I will find another time to post this weekend in an attempt to procrastinate, so be sure to keep an eye out 🙂

 

 

Personal

Returning…

…and we’re back! This semester is crazy crazy crazy and I have neglected this little portion of hyperspace. So, lets bring it back 🙂

We had an awesome weekend. First, it finally stopped raining and we saw the sun for what seems like the first time in weeks. Riding the Vitamin D high, we were thrilled to welcome my friend/cousin Millie and her husband, Michael, for the weekend. Michael, or should I say “The Beast”, came down from Charlottesville, VA to run in a Spartan obstacle-course race in South Carolina. I had never heard of these races, but hearing a little more about them from M & M, they sound very intense! There are several different types (i.e., a sprint 5k and 8k) and this was a half-marathon with over 30 obstacles thrown in for “fun” along the way (such as climbing a rope with no knots, crawling under barbed wire in freezing water, and throwing a spear in true spartan style). This is Michael’s third of the year. After completing all three different races, he is officially the proud owner of the title of “Spartan Trifecta Beast”.

Congrats, Mike–you are officially very in shape. May your heart live long and prosper, which I think it will.

As yoga is more my thing I stayed home and hung out with Millie. It was great–she taught me about essential oils, we played games, and watched John Oliver. I did absolutely no work and it was glorious!

I continued self-care Saturday into Sunday, brunching at the Crispy Crepe with Alyssa and checking out the Pop-Up Vintage Charlotte Market at the NC Music Factory. It was lovely and I am feeling quite recharged as I sit here, sipping hot apple cider and preparing to work.

All weekends should be this lovely. Here’s to a happy, stress-free, and dry week.

Cheers!

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Summer Reading

Summer is here!

I have been loving having a brief break before returning to work next week. Drew and I spent some time in Orlando with two friends gallivanting around Harry Potter World at Universal Studios which was an absolute blast. Traveling is one of our favorite ways to celebrate things and taking a yearly trip at the end of the school year is becoming a much loved tradition. I will post pictures from that adventure soon.

In the meantime, I have been enjoying my summer break by immersing myself in reading. Growing up I was one of the “weird” ones (and now I note that “weird” was code for “awesome”). When the rest of my classmates would look at our summer reading lists with disgust and disdain, I would become extremely excited at the prospect of having the opportunity to discover new books, new authors, be introduced to new characters and worlds, and immerse myself in new stories.

Things haven’t changed much. Ask me how I like to spend my evenings and I will tell you I prefer to be curled up with a book, on the couch, traveling to distant lands in my imagination. While we may no longer be assigned formal summer reading lists, I thought I would put together a little list of my own. Here are some of the books I am looking forward to reading this summer. Good Omens is the read for our June book club.

What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Capture

Outliers//The Last Lecture//Ishmael

Good Omens//Hallucinations//The House of Mirth

Quiet//The Silkworm//My Stroke of Insight

Motivation

A Spring Yoga Teaching

It is beginning to feel like spring outside. Spring is the time of year where life begins to reemerge after the long, cold winter and, relating to school, I find that the time following spring break is a “rebirth” of sorts as well, signifying the close of the first half of the semester and indicating that there are a mere 8 week left until Summer vacation.

Spring is a time that is synonymous with new beginnings, fresh starts, and spring cleaning. This rebirth that is occurring all around us often inspires us to do some Spring cleaning of our own in other aspects of our lifes, working to remove those more extraneous things from our lives that add unnecessary clutter and weight. This is evidenced in a rededication to New Year’s resolutions (exercise routines, clean eating programs, etc), the physical cleaning and reorganization of our homes, cars, and living spaces, and/or a rededication and increased focus to studies or work at hand.

This process of cleansing or purification, in Sanskrit, is called tapas. This literally translates as “to heat” but also is understood to mean purification practices, more generally. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali teach us that this process of tapas is cultivated through sadhana, or some form of consistent and disciplined practice for the purpose of self-realization. Sadhana is typically practiced in one of three domains—(1) Jana—or dedication to the practice of the pursuit of knowledge via consistent study of or dedication to more intellectual or academic knowledge (e.g., studying philosophical or religious texts in an effort to gain insight), (2) Karma—or dedication to the attainment of self-realization through service and humble action (e.g., picture those who have dedicated their lives to serving and promoting equality and well-being for others such as Mother Theresa or Ghandi), and (3) Bhakti—or dedication to the practice of self-realization through love and devotion to God.

We generally tend to resonate with a particular domain of sadhana, though different times in our lives may call for different practices and true self-realization is often reached via the combination and practice of all three domains, simultaneously.

As our sadhana is practiced, our desire to change, to purify, or to realize end results or outcomes can be thought of as an iterative process, reflected by periods of intense dedication and periods of resistance to change. These can exist separately or simultaneously and these differences in motivation create a sense of friction, heat, cleansing power or tapas.

The fire of tapas (e.g., the fire of change) certainly works to purify and mold us, but it also serves to soften us, working to break us free of old patterns and habits which have become stagnant and allowing us to penetrate more deeply into the density of our bodies, minds, and hearts. As a result of this process, the physical, psychological, and emotional body becomes cleaner, stronger, and more flexible and out indriyas (or sense organs that serve as our windows to the world) begin to regain qualities of sensitivity and discernment, allowing us to being to rework or narrative and perceptual reality in a way that is more in life with our ideal selves.

Spring is a beautiful time to examine habits or patterns which we may find ourselves repeating and it is also a wonderful time to reevaluate our goals, both for the immediate and distal future, holding on those which best serve us and beginning to see how we might best rework those that are no longer serving us in ideal ways. Our yoga practice is the perfect place to begin doing this. As you move through your practice, either of physical asana, of meditation, or of both, see if you can bring awareness to the thoughts, feelings, or sensations that emerge as you transition from one moment to the next. You may be tempted to judge these sensations, labeling them as good or bad, right or wrong, but as much as possible see if you can let go of the judgments and become a passive observer of your experience. Let the thoughts and sensations be just those, thoughts or sensations that rise and fall much like waves in the ocean. Note how at some moments, the ocean of your experience may be more calm than at others, but note that there is always a dynamic force, friction, or tapas underlying it all that gives rise to one moment and then the next. See if, in the midst of this constant movement and change, if you can find a moment of rest and repose. Of stillness. And in that moment, see if you can experience a sense of satisfaction.

This is the practice of mindfulness, the practice of awareness, and, truly, the practice of yoga. That constant return to our experience and awakening of awareness, again and again, time after time, tends to be accompanied by a sense of peace, ease, and well-being. It may seem difficult at first to access but, like a muscle being worked and strengthened, becomes easier to tap into with dedicated sadhana.

I hope you are able to find some moments of peace, ease, and well-being today. Until next time, lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.

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Weekend Watchlist

I am in the processing of packing to go home for the holidays and wanted to post a quick update before leaving. I am happy to report that I successfully finished the semester of school! Since coming to grad school, I have really tried to reframe the way I think, not aiming as much for “A’s” (though they are nice to receive) but rather focusing on learning. Basically, this means if I end the semester with a B, but really took alot away from the course and feel I will be able to integrate it into my professional life, I am OK with it. This mentality took awhile to adopt (and honestly, sometimes I feel like I am still working on it), but it has really helped me to let go of the stress and competitive spirit that can accompany grad school and has helped me to enjoy the ride more 🙂 That being said, I haven’t even looked at all my grades yet (GASP), but I know I passed the semester, I have learned quite alot, and I feel I have continued to grow as a student, future professional, and spouse. All in all, I would say it was a success 🙂 More on all of this later, but in the meantime….

Here is what has been on my radar recently….

ONE// Two words…BABY SLOTHS!

This has to be one of the cutest videos ever. I love animals, especially baby animals. I also love sloths. This video just might take the cake for one of the most adorable animal videos of the year. Just try and watch it without saying or thinking “Aww” at least once…..

TWO// UPS Driver for a Day

This is so sweet. This little boy is adorable and his earnest excitement and love for Mr. Ernie the delivery man are just precious. And when he throws his hands onto his face in shock? I just about lost it. This will make you feel so warm and happy. What a brilliant campaign by UPS.

THREE// Happy Chanukah!

The holiday season is usually inundated with Christmas carols, but, as Adam Sandler so eloquently pointed out in the classic “Eight Crazy Nights”, songs celebrating Chanukah are lacking in the popular media. Well, Six13 is aiming to change that this year with their amazing parody of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” all about the festival of lights. This is amazing and has to be the BEST cover of the year of Ms Swift’s song. Enjoy!

FOUR// Charlotte’s Edible Walkway

I saved the best for last. In local news, the historic Wilmore neighborhood marks the first in Charlotte to plant an entirely edible walkway, filled with fruit and nut trees, for people to enjoy. The idea stemmed from noticing local children walking up the street to get “food”, only to see them returning from a grocery store with processed and sugar-laden food. The hope is that this path will provide a natural and sustainable source of food for all people to enjoy. Kudos to you, Charlotte. This is an AMAZING idea and one that I hope catches fire. We have access to so many wonderful natural food sources and this is a small step in working to help reconnect people with nature and where their food comes from. It is also a really promising step in working to create a sustainable future for our children. I hope your local communities are able to adopt similar ideas.

Whats on your radar this week?

Psychology

Gratitude

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In the spirit of Thanksgiving I have been sharing this quote in my yoga classes this week as I find it quite poignant. We live in such a materialistic world where everywhere we turn, there is always something to want. Something we do not already have that we “need” to make our lives better. Easier. Prettier. Especially during this time of the year it is easy to get caught up in this and forget about all the things we already have that make our lives beautiful. Wonderful. Fill them with happiness.

What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you gave thanks for today?

While gratitude certainly fills the holiday season, it is something to be expressed daily, mutually, received humbly, and fully. Studies have shown that gratitude benefits us psychologically, emotionally, and physically. According to the Huffington Post:

  • A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison …
  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons and McCullough, 2003) …
  • Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions …
  • Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.

Studies have further illustrated the following benefits of gratitude (note better sleep and health). A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent (that’s the same impact as doubling your income) as well as lower hypertension, systemic inflammation, and risk of heart disease.

gratitude

gratitude1

What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you gave thanks for today?

Here are some simple  ways to practice gratitude each day:

  • Say thanks. Send a thank-you text message or email to someone who did something nice for you recently. Or write a longer letter, detailing how their act of generosity benefited you. Better yet, tell them in person.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Every morning (or evening), write down three to five things you’re grateful for. They can be simple things, or big things — the key is that they’re different every day. Think: What was surprisingly fun, exciting, or laugh-out-loud funny? What made you feel good or proud or connected to someone else?
  • Use visual cues. Put notes or objects that elicit feelings or reminders of gratitude and put them in different places so you see them throughout the day to help set your gratitude habit.
  • Remember the good times. Do a deep dive into some personal archives and reconnect with where you’ve been, what you’ve learned, and whom you’ve loved along the way. (Read more about how to make good feelings last.)

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Motivation

Monday Motivation

monday

Happy Monday! It is cold and rainy around here today. The sort of day where all you want to do is curl up on the couch with a blanket and watch movies. My friend Margaret posted this today on Instagram and I wanted to share it here as it was just the motivation I needed today.

    I have given a lot of thought lately to my bad habit of making choices based on convenience. From the stores where I shop, to my exercise routine, I tend to choose what’s most convenient and not what’s best for me and my health. So… I am breaking old habits and choosing to live from intent. And I intend to be healthy! So this morning, instead of hitting the snooze button, I slid out of bed, sat on the floor with my back against the bed, closed my eyes and meditated for 15 minutes. That’s a good start.”

I love this and find this so applicable to my life. It is so easy- especially when we are busy and stressed- to do the easiest thing or make the most convenient choice, even if we know another slightly more difficult or less convenient option might be more in line with our health, well-being, and best interests. It is in these moments our challenge is to catch ourselves and mindfully choose to act in such a way that will align ours lives with the goals we have set for ourselves. Recalling my intention for health as well, I chose to pass on the movie today and practice yoga. It was hard going at first (that couch was calling my name!) but my choice to practice was well worth it by the end. I feel energized and ready to take on the week. Thank you, so much, Margaret for these poignant words!  Check her out her Instagram (@ommyoga) for daily inspiration and her Etsy shop for sweet homemade jewelry.

Here’s to a wonderful week!

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Weekend Watchlist

painting

Wow, what a busy week and great weekend! I worked all week, trying to complete grant and fellowship applications while working on presentations, homework, seeing clients, trying to cook dinners for Drew, and find time to spend with him each day. I have been trying to get back into painting and, after submitting a grant to a student research competition Friday afternoon, decided to take the evening off and paint. I was able to complete a new painting Friday, which is currently hanging on our wall (and featured above). I think it might need a little more work but I am generally pleased with it. Later that evening, Drew and I had some friends over for brie and boardgames, both of which we have decided we must make a regular thing. We were invited for an amazing dinner and fantastic conversation at a friend’s house on Saturday and then we watched Maleficient, which I had been dying to see and absolutely loved. We had a generally lazy but productive Sunday, and I was able to teach a Restorative Yoga class complete with a lovely guided yoga nidra practice to finish off the weekend in a fabulous way. We are looking forward to this upcoming week, which promises to be very busy, but until then here is what has been on my radar recently…

ONE// How Much Do You Know About Your Food?

cheese

This article might blow your mind, and not in a good way. It is so important to know about and understand what we are putting into our bodies. I did not know that most shredded cheese had wood pulp in it and this post has me rethinking foods which I thought were “healthy”.

TWO// 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People

This article is an oldie but a goodie. My mother bought me Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person years ago, when I was struggling with the transition from adolescence to young-adulthood. I remember resonating with so many of the points brought up in the book. It was refreshing to hear of my quirks and idiosyncrasies referred to as “sensitive” rather than “weird”, and of this term “sensitive” being presented as an inherent character strength rather than weakness.  Anyone who knows me knows that most of these points apply.

THREE// Sounds of Space

space

Prepare to have your mind blown. I am simultaneously fascinated and terrified of outer space. It is beautiful, incomprehensible, and humbling. I had heard of space sounds before,  and this post, shared by my friend Erin, is pretty astounding. Enjoy.

What is on your radar this week?

Travel

After Halloween Comes Christmas?

Two weekends ago, the day after Halloween, Drew and I decided to take a trip to Tennessee. Our plan was to go to Dollywood for the final day of the Autumn Gospel Music Festival. We were so excited (even though when we looked at the weather the high was projected to be a balmy 40 degrees). We woke up early, packed up the car, and set out on our way and drove right into a winter wonderland! It had snowed in the mountains the night before and we started to see it around Asheville and it stayed with us for most of the trip. Unfortunately, most of I-40 was closed due to an accident and the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed as well, so we decided to take a trip to the Cherokee Indian Reservation instead. Drew is 1/8 Cherokee and we thought it would be a cool way to reconnect with his heritage. Due to the weather, most of the town/attractions were closed, but we were able to stop off at the Casino for lunch (we also played one slot machine and I won $5.50!), and see the Cherokee museum, and go on an impromptu hike to check out a waterfall. The museum is  fantastic and I highly recommend it. I learned so much about the hard road that the Cherokee nation has walked and came away with a profound respect for their dedication to their land and their people. I love exploring with Drew and am already looking forward to our next adventure!

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