Grad School

Life as a grad school addict. Two master degrees, weeks away from a PhD, and an adjunct professor of graduate level courses. I don’t know a lot about a lot, but I know an awful lot about graduate school.

Pick up tips and strategies to add value to your graduate or doctoral program. Or, commiserate and read on for more follies, fails, and exasperation…. see exactly why you are not alone!

Coffee. Lots of coffee. Annual changes in prescriptions for eye glasses. Tears. All the tears. Euphorias and eurekas. Then failed data analysis and committee rejections, and constantly hearing it will be worth it in the end. I’m here to say, yes, it will!

How to Manage Reading for Grad School

You took the plunge and are starting graduate school. Congratulations! Have you noticed your reading list, yet? The length can be intimidating… welcome to grad school! You can expect to read numerous articles and chapters each week. Yes, you will study and work differently in a graduate program than you did in your undergraduate degree. This includes how you approach reading for grad school.

The bar has been raised and you already made the decision to step up to the occasion by virtue of arriving. But you’ve got this!

For your time you are in grad school, you will be – and should be – reading, constantly. Always read, read, read. Be insatiably curious.

There’s no way to make the lengthy list of readings go away. Make no mistake; you’re going to read more in this program than you probably ever have before in your life.

But there are numerous ways to make the most out of your reading time and tackle these titles more efficiently. Here are some of the strategies I recommend for my grad students that I tried and found to be true through both of my master degrees and my PhD.

reading for grad school

Scholarly/Academic reading is a different process than reading for pleasure.

One of the largest mistakes students will make in their approaches to assigned readings and research is to approach them as if they are leisurely reading. Scholarly reading requires a different approach. Be prepared to take notes, look up supplementary and related reading materials, and even rereading paragraphs.

Start at the abstract.

At the start of your chapter or article, review the abstract and the first two to three paragraphs. This helps you orient and assess what you want to learn as a result of reading the article (and is also why creating strong thesis statements and introductions is important in scholarly writing). Scan all of the headings and review the concluding paragraphs. You may find that your use of that article is complete – you may have discovered what you need or you may have realized the article is not valuable to what you need to learn. The latter will occur quite often when you are researching for your assignments.

When you are reading a textbook, flip to the end of the chapters and read the questions scripted at the end. Those are great insights into what you want to hone in on when skimming the chapter.

Make multiple passes.

Don’t read from start to finish. Scan the article numerous times, paying attention to the headings, tables, captions, and anything in exaggerated font style.

Begin to read more.

If you determined the article is valuable for your assignment or project, now you can read it. Read the introduction and conclusions, then go through and find out what was the method and how the authors approached finding their conclusion. Review the discussion portion of the article and examine the context of how the authors interpreted their results.

reading for grad school

Be noncommittal.

Remember that you can stop reading the article if you obtained all the information you need or if it is not valuable for you. This isn’t Harry Potter… sometimes all you need is a skim.

Be a problem solver.

Look at the article in the way you typically would a puzzle – outside in. Once you use the introduction, conclusion, and headings to create the framework, then begin to fill in the rest of the picture. Sometimes you will need the full article to see the picture, and sometimes you don’t. Approach textbook chapters and articles from a strategic vantage point, and once you’ve found the information that is valuable and necessary to you, move on.

Using these strategies will be a significant game changer in whether or not, or how much, you feel overwhelm. Get ready to “hack” everything you currently know about reading to get the best use of your energy and your time. You should intend to read a lot, but read smart. Identify the general theme of the required reading or research article then apply these targeted reading strategies to build your knowledge.


sound strategies to maximize your time and tackle your list of reading for grad school


sound strategies to maximize your time and tackle your list of reading for grad school

My Favorite Coffee Shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

I found my favorite coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas. Two things for which San Cristobal de las Casas is known: alpine chill in the air and out of this world good coffee. San Cristobal de las Casas is the heart of Mexico’s coffee industry.

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

For real, I thought the local coffee in Oaxaca was delicious. Chiapas has best coffee on lock! Cold nights lead to chilly mornings that warm into exquisite days… It’s like a perpetual mid-March/early-April even when not raining, which is another climate specialty of this sky high city. Both elements contribute to a perfect environment to drink hot coffee and chocolate to my heart’s content.

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

Whether a frequent tourista or a digital nomad, us wanderlust afflicted ladies know the value of wifi. One of my first searches upon finding a new city landing spot is where is the good wifi. And just as importantly, where is the good coffee?

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

If you have to sacrifice some of your vacation, or “vacation,” to work, it might as well be in a beautiful space with fast wifi, spectacular coffee, and a jamming play list. Frontera has all of this in spades…

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

While I call it my favorite coffee shop in San Cristobal, it is possibly my favorite. Coffee. Shop. Period.

Reclaimed wooden and glass doors function as tables. Linen upholstered wingback chairs frame a bookshelf stacked with board games and books. A Chippendale sofa upholstered in cobalt blue offers a perfect vantage point for people watching or reading up on the history of Zapatistas. Windows and skylights ensure the lighting is perfect for selfies. And working. Circa 1994 Counting Crows meets Bel Biv Devoe meets Cigarettes After Sex’s cover of Keep On Loving You. And the patio… … …

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

Oh, but the coffee, right? In addition to the tried and true espresso press, local artisan coffee can also be extracted by Chemex (my favorite), Aeropress, French Press, and Dripper. All of the coffee beans are from Chiapas, fair trade, and organic. And delicious! Holy roastery Batman. Amazing!

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

United Airlines is going to need to forcibly remove me from my seat. Frontera is the coffee shop of my dreams and for the time I have remaining in this magical little city, is hands down my favorite coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

I love to say the name of this city so much… San Cristobal de las Casas. You know, it wasn’t part of my original plan when I moved to Mexico. I’m so glad I cut into my Oaxaca time and came here. My regret is I only have one week.

The artistic and creative energy that this place emanates is crazy strong. If I were a better and more inspired writer, I think I could write a novel here. At least, I was able to finish my dissertation chair required edits here? Committee approval and defense, I’ve got you locked in my cross hairs. Finally!

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

What elements do you look for when seeking your coffee mother ship? XO, Jennifer


Happy Thanksgiving! Something to Enjoy | Cranes in the Sky

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because the very purpose, to me, is about giving thanks and fellowship with your family, friends, and community. Around food! I may have had two – significantly sized – pieces of red velvet cake… with cream cheese frosting so stacked I am certain if I were only a centimeter tall I would need snowshoes to get across the width of that cake. This is my first post since arriving in Alabama. I’m so happy to be here, but so exhausted. But oh so happy. It’s been forever and some days since I shared my thoughts and what I found to be something to enjoy, 2,246 some miles, later.

Something I’m Listening to…. Cranes in the Sky by Solange Knowles

Holy cow, it’s been out for several weeks now but have you heard her new album? Wow, wow, wow. So much in love! The song, itself, is frigging amazing – I don’t have the words – but you must see the visuals in her video to accompany the single. The artistic direction for all of the visual accompaniment to her latest album practically blows my mind.

 According to her Instagram, Cranes in the Sky was a project eight years in the making. Seriously, stop and run this through twice. Once to watch this full beauty unfold, and then again with eyes closed to help you develop all those delicious feels.

Something I’m Reading…. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero


Irreverent, funny, and in my face. I picked this up, on a whim, when Edie and I were in Carmel last month. “When Edie and I…” I could consider getting a life. But I’d need to finish my dissertation to do that. Her chapters are fast reads and perfectly sized to consume in quick gulps. Yes, this is “self help,” but I promise you’ll be having too much of a great time to care. PROMISE!

Something Pretty for My Self Care…. Ok, several things this week

  1. Thanksgiving, of course! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For me, the occassion is an opportunity to come together with family, friends, and share our love, joy, fellowship, and collectively be thankful. I am particularly contemplative of my gratitude. Oh, and hello, the food! My doctor didn’t call me out for gaining (now over) 22 pounds this year for nothing! I had two – not small – slices of legit, homemade, not oily, not scary red, red velvet cake. I dared my pancreas to not send me into pre-diabetes (which I should not laugh at because several older generation family members developed Type 2 in their lifetimes – knowing family medical history can be a wet blanket at times).
  2. My road trip came to an end but I had several “firsts” that I can’t wait to share with you! Running barefoot and nearly chilled as a popsicle through the sand dunes of White Sands with Edie, Carlsbad Caverns, traversing the entirety of Texas, camping under the super moon, glamping in Marfa. Glamping! Oh, and letting Edie the Beast loose in NOLA, teeth and all. Soon, I promise. I have a long list of posts to create and share with you. But, first, I MUST finish these final pages of my draft. Codes are not my friends.

Something New…. Strangers – a podcast by Lea Thau

I’ve been about as obsessed with some podcasts for a while with a similar dependency that some women have to The Bachelor and any of the Real Housewives. But, right before I left Phoenix I discovered Strangers. I downloaded the entire series and binge-listened to Strangers episodes throughout the majority of my road trip East. GAAAAA it’s SO GOOD!

Your turn…. How about you? What is something you particularly enjoyed this week? What is something you have planned for the rest of your holiday weekend? Comment below and let us know! 

Happy thanksgiving! Something to Enjoy


Something to Enjoy: A Weekly Round Up | Only You

This week was a rather quick whirlwind of news and activity. I have a new tentative move date, but this one brings more certainty than past ones. I fully am in the analysis phase of my research, and defense of my dissertation will be as quickly as I can write. That ball is fully in my court, and I have been waiting on this stage for far too long. I am tired. Tired like that exhaustion that hits at mile 20 in a marathon. I am close enough that there is no way I am going to do anything other than push through! As quickly as the week came by, I have something to enjoy. 🙂

Something to Enjoy: A Weekly Round Up | Only You

Something I’m Listening to…. Only You by Yazoo

I cannot get enough of this song! Anything 80’s pop synth gets me all dreamy and mushy. In fact, one of my favorite things to do with an old boyfriend of mine was to listen to his old 80’s records playing on his fantastic stereo  – Roxy Music was a big feature – drink luxurious wine from his collection, and debate each other with our contrary social and political views.

Something I’m Reading…. Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

I loved the movie. I was curious about the book. It is not flashy or quirky but is absolutely splendid and deeply touching.

“The human heart has a way of making itself large again even after it’s been broken into a million pieces.”

Something Pretty for My Self Care…. Ok, several things this week

  1. Edie’s Barkday! For four years I have enjoyed – and endured – the fur and fury of my little monster. No barkday parties this year, but I’m going to give a little throwback to her last barkday party at OHSO. Before I moved out of my condo I would ride my bike along the canal the distance between my home and OHSO with Edie in her jump-proof basket. We’re actually heading there for brunch this Sunday with one of Edie’s best “aunties” for what will likely be our “goodbye” brunch if my departure date remains on schedule.

Barkday Party

2. A woman in line behind me at Paradise Bakery picked up my bill for my lunch. Just because, and asked me to pay it forward.

3. Despite my urgency to complete Chapter Four before I begin the extended road trip to move East, I went to the first general membership meeting for Junior League of Phoenix. It felt really great to see so many women who are my friends. Friendships that are meaningful and mature, and formed through coming together within JLP. As our hashtag says, #IamJLP.


Something to Enjoy: A Weekly Round Up | Bad Girl

Something I enjoy reading on blogs I follow is the weekly roundup week end round up. My weeks don’t follow a typical M-F 9-5, anymore, after leaving my job. But, seriously, who actually only ever had to work 9-5? I (easily) logged 50 hours and more every week at job #1, and then 20-25 hours with my adjunct faculty work. Then, as much time as I could into my doctoral work, I worked, researched, and wrote, with a lot of crying in between. Many times, I forgot to remember to find something to enjoy in the process. Huh, no wonder I became so burned out I gained over 30 pounds in three years (yes, that happened, my doctor called me out) and volunteered to leave my job during a company workforce reduction. And gave away about 90% of everything I own, reducing my belongings to 12 boxes in storage.

It’s especially important for me to remember to find something to enjoy during this time of radical change and total upheaval in my life. Remaining mindful of everything around me that is good is good for me. 🙂

In the spirit of universal love for weekends, and my penchant for nearly everything vintage, I’m going along with the Friday feelzzzz. Because who doesn’t love Friday, and Friday can still be something I enjoy, right? Besides, Friday I’m in Love has been a go-to anthem to power through those Friday morning rush hour commutes for years. Since I used to turn to music to help me game up for Friday, I’ll begin by sharing what I’m listening to this week.

Something Special

Something I’m Listening to…. Bad Girl by Lee Moses

One aspect of living alone I treasure is the quietness of solitude. But, I love a good jam and private living room dance party, too. That’s another benefit of living alone, you know…. Whatever I want, and however loud I want. 🙂 This morning’s stream is deep, deep, soul – Lee Moses. You might recognize this song from Jessa’s relapse dance scene if you’re a Girls fan. Otherwise, unless you are a mega connoisseur of deep soul, you probably would not recognize him. While Lee Moses is now regarded for the artistic and musical merit of his work, his albums, at the time, were generally considered commercial failures. Back to Girls, whoever does the sound design for that show nailed this lyrical narrative.

Something I’m Reading…. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I consume books like a whale shark does plankton. For years I lamented the dramatic reduction, and for a couple of years complete lack of, reading for pleasure. When you’re working upwards of 75 hours a week in emotionally and intellectually draining work then working on your PhD with a comparable full time credit load, there’s little time left for indulgences. Unfortunately, reading for pleasure (and writing) wasn’t something I got to do as often as I wanted. I’d longingly decline invitations to friends’ book clubs. Copies of Vogue, Phoenix Magazine, and Southern Living would get 2-3 issues deep before I’d read them. Occasionally, I’d take my unopened Vogues to Bookman’s to sell.

Sacrilege, I know. But a PhD is anything but holy.

I started making a list of books I would read when I graduated. My only steadfast non-research related reading would be my annual New Year’s Day opening of Pride and Prejudice. Lizzy Bennet is my girl! Now that I’m no longer working full time and focusing on my dissertation, solely, I have some more time. And this summer, my reading list got some love.

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor & Park. Not a new read, and I’m not much of a YA reader, anyway… But – I devoured this book. Read it in a day!

Something Pretty for My Self Care…. Ok, several things this week

In principle, I understand, and advocate, the importance of self care. In practice, I have been… pretty terrible at it, myself. I wouldn’t have gained as much weight, been so stressed out I essentially quit my job, and fallen off the radar of so many social scenes if I were better at it. But, sometimes we all need to give ourselves a bit of slack and forgiveness. And sometimes, we just need to give ourselves credit for doing the best we can. Sometimes the win is I drank my coffee before it became cold. Hey, if that is the win of the day, that’s a win! Ummm, on that note, today I did not finish my coffee before it became cool. But I’m still drinking from the cup.

  1. My dissertation chair was in town this week. He knew I’ve been struggling. We both love spinning, and it’s become a little tradition for us to meet for a collaborative dinner and spin class when he’s in town. He knew I haven’t been going because I can’t justify the cost when I’m living on no income with plans to leave the country after I defend my dissertation. He treated me to a #PartyOnABike class. Afterwards, he took me to dinner and instead of discussing my data collection challenges and progress, which I check in with him every week about so he already knows, we talked about me. What’s going well, what’s a struggle, and how I’m coping with the massive changes I implemented in my life. It was really good to hear someone else tell me I’m doing better than I want to let myself believe. I may not be averaging 1,000, but then again, no one does. On the note of my dissertation, my extension of study request was approved by the college district that is my study site, so that is very good news. Even better news, I have formally completed my data collection and can move on to straight analysis. At this point, I will graduate as quickly as I can finish Chapter 4 and write Chapter 5. It’s almost here!!!! I’m really – truly — almost done!
  2. I started a happiness box this January, taking the cue from a post by Elizabeth Gilbert. Well, it’s been quite the crap shoot as to if I wrote down something before crashing to bed at night. The win is I get it in some days! Much like my reading, my pleasure writing slipped a bit, too. I splurged on this beautiful little day planner that I repurposed to be a highlight journal for me. Plus, it’s so pretty sitting on my bedside table, and will be more packable than a jar when I begin my little sojourn. And, there are stickers. I can attest, you are never too old for stickers!
  3. House sitting for a friend in my old central Phoenix neighborhood. Backyard evenings playing fetch with Majerle and Edie. Testing new recipes in her remodeled, gourmet kitchen with her Lebanese Cookbook from Phaidon. I’ve made eight recipes, so far, with another night ahead of me for my test  kitchen, and this is going on my Christmas wish list (Momma, if you’re reading this….).
  4. I long ago adopted the habit of buying myself flowers. While there is the camp that views flowers as wasteful, to me, they are beautiful and make me happy. I picked up a bunch of stock at Trader Joe’s Sunday and stuffed them in a used pickle jar. They still are vibrant and fragrant as they were five days ago. The lovely fragrance I smell as I type this post and the simple act of me smiling every time I see them is worth the $3.99 I spent this week.

Something pretty for self care

Something New…. Hong Kong Latte Art

Thanks to Hannah of The Sunny Side of Things, I now know where those adorable dim sum dumplings and little kitty cat latte foam sculptures can be found. Her post on Hong Kong itinerary and highlights also feeds my thirst to explore that vibrant city. I dare you to look at those latte foam kitties and dumplings and not smile.

Your turn…. How about you? What is something you particularly enjoyed this week? What is something you have planned for the holiday weekend? Comment below and let us know!