To Do List Minimalist

November Chalkboard for crushin' goals. Note the two big priorities--one professional and one personal, because I'm balanced like that.

November Chalkboard for crushin' goals. Note the two big priorities--one professional and one personal, because I'm balanced like that.

People often associate minimalism with getting rid of stuff, a less is more mentality, and having more experiences over more things, and so on and so forth. All those things are great, fantastic even, and I try to incorporate them in my life. The most rewarding application of the minimalist philosophy for me, however, has been cutting the crap from my to do list and saying no to opportunities and obligations not in line with my goals and values (and I am so bad at saying no…it’s ridiculous).

I keep track of my to do’s on a giant chalkboard in my office. I got the idea from the Being Boss Chalkboard method (Being Boss is an awesome weekly podcast for creative entrepreneurs that I kind of love). I change it up from month to month to suit my mood. But I was creeping back into my "let's do all the things" mindset. In October, I had this huge long to do list where I had a bullet point for every freaking thing I was interested in accomplishing. And most of that stuff, I just didn't finish. Instead, that giant unfocused list made me feel scattered and all over the place. I didn’t make time for the stuff that mattered. 

So for November, I thought, “What if I focused on maybe one or two things? Could I be more productive, more successful at getting shit done?” My creative writing was sitting far too low on my to do list and I never got much written—starting and stopping a number of different novels, short stories, and essays (because heaven forbid I choose just one kind of project). Thanks to the added incentive of NanoWriMo 2016, I feel freaking amazing! It’s been a week, and I've written over 10,000 words towards my novel and busted my ass at the gym, culminating in a Sunday 5k for the hell of it. I think this minimalist approach to my to do list is working so far. I’ve already been more productive in a week then I was the whole month of October.  I don't have the “should have” guilt eating away at me each night when my head hits the pillow and I’m not waking up at 3 am in a panic that I’m wasting my life—I’m doing the things I want to be doing. 

There's always the stuff you've got to do like clean your house, buy groceries, go to work, etc., but what about the things that you want to do? Don't forget to make room for those! Maybe even put them at the top of your to do list every once in awhile. If we don’t make time for those goals, they will never get accomplished. As I’m already learning this month, all it takes is a little bit of time each day and a willingness to cut out the extraneous bullshit.

That Time I Went to Panama, Part 1

Sometimes the universe cuts you a break... the magical hotel inside the Miami airport, is it real or did we dream it?

Sometimes the universe cuts you a break... the magical hotel inside the Miami airport, is it real or did we dream it?

June 8, 2016. We are going to Panama with a group of long time friends to visit another long time friend, the badass Miss Jenny. This is my first “real” time leaving the country. Previously, I had only been to Canada—Windsor (ehh) and Niagara on the Lake (beautiful, but 45 minutes from my home in Buffalo). I am excited, but nervous—freaked out would be the most accurate terminology. I psyche myself up in the months leading up to our trip and finally, the big day comes. We arrive at the airport on time, and await our flight to Newark, where we plan to meet up with our friends to continue the journey to Panama.

Our flight to Newark is delayed. No big deal, we get a second breakfast and two Irish coffees, our vacation has begun after all. After brunch, we head back to our gate and I run to the bathroom. Looking for my seat on the way back, I scan the faces for Jeff’s. It is NOT a happy face…our flight is cancelled. 

The airline tells us we can’t get to Panama until the following night. I refuse to accept this. My friends already in Panama refuse to accept this, and the badass Miss Jenny’s fiance, cool and collected Mr. Tim, gets us a route that will get us to Panama the next morning. Let the fucking journey begin! 

Our new flight takes us to Chicago. Not to my surprise, after holding my bladder for the dissent to the ground for what feels like hours, the women’s bathroom outside our gate is closed. It’s just that kind of day, and I hobble to the next closest restroom, reminding myself I only have one pair of cozy travel pants and to wet them would be a great tragedy. I make it to the restroom and squat over the weird-revolving plastic covered toilet seats that are just part of the charm of O’Hare.

We’ve got a few hours to kill before our next flight to Miami, so we enjoy some lovely sandwiches and a much needed beer. It’s now dinner time and every airport restaurant offering alcohol is packed with lines out the door. The lines are not irritating like usual, this is all part of our vacation we continue to tell each other. Instead, we soak it up, observing the weird and whacky characters waiting alongside us for their evening libations. My favorite was an older woman, a vision in pink—pink glasses, pink shirt, pink jacket, long pink hippie skirt, and a gorgeous leather pink purse—sipping a gin and tonic at the bar, reading a book about the Wright Brothers (I overheard her telling someone she got it at an LA bookstore.) I point her out to Jeff, wanting him to know that I hope to be that cool some day.

We mosey on over to our gate, ready for the next leg of our trip to Miami. A city I’d been longing to visit, although not quite like this. The flight attendant at our gate was offering three hundred dollars to volunteers for a later flight to Miami, instead of at 11:30 p.m. We would arrive at 2 a.m. $600 is no joke. What the heck, we figure, and ask if we can volunteer, explaining our situation and that we absolutely cannot miss our flight to Panama at 6 a.m. They tell us to sit back down, it’s not worth the risk. There are no guarantees we will make our flight. No $600, but that's the first hint that our luck is turning.

We arrive at the Miami airport and ask directions to our next gate, where we will finally board a plane for Panama. Unknowingly, we stepped into the baggage claim zone. We can't go back without crossing through security. We head towards our gate. The fluorescent lights are dimmer as we make our way into the international zone. We wait in line at security. TSA scans our tickets and informs us we can’t go through security until two hours before our flight. Its midnight. We board our flight at 5 a.m. We have nowhere to go for the next five hours.

There are people sleeping on the floors of the hallways and the only available chairs are under the bright lights. This is going to be a long night. If only, I say to Jeff, there was a hotel right outside this door where we could walk right in, sleep in a bed, and take a damn shower. We had agreed earlier we wouldn't try to leave the airport and find a hotel because the window of time was so small before our flight to Panama.

And then, low and behold, before our very eyes, there is a fucking hotel in the Miami airport! Fuck the budget, we say, we laid down that plastic and get ourselves a few hours of shuteye and a shower to wash off the sticky film of travel.

The next morning, about 4 a.m., when we step out of the elevator outside our room, it seems as though the hotel is gone. Like we had imagined it, the whole thing a dream, maybe we had slept in those hard plastic chairs after all. Turns out, in our brain fog, we got off on the wrong floor. We find the concierge desk and check out. We make it through security, with no problem...well not really. Jeff is patted down, asked if he speaks English. I guess he passes for a central American local (there is no question that I do not).

Our luck continues to improve as I spy a Starbucks across from our gate. Nothing worse then having to miss out on that morning cup of coffee, especially after only a few hours of sleep. Everything is in Spanish now so I'm just winging it. I'm the only blonde in this section of the airport and people think Jeff is hispanic.

At the gate desk we get pulled aside when they check our tickets, but again, everyone is speaking Spanish so I don't know what’s going on. Somehow, the problem resolves itself, some mix up with the airline name on our tickets, and we finally board the plane to Panama, our final destination! Little did we know, this was merely a test of our ability to relax and go with the flow, but more on that later.

To be continued…