List Making, NTD, and TTDs

Thanks to Madison for his “uplifting” post the other day. I love being “guilted” by a dog.  This was a great trip, and nothing he says could change that.

I had a good chuckle when I read over my itinerary on the plane as we circled to land in Detroit for my connecting outbound flight. I am a list maker and my itinerary this trip, with four guilds, was a long one: two pages worth. I list where I’m going what presentations I’ve giving, how many participants, hotel address contact information, names and cell phone numbers for the folks who will be carting me around from place to place.

And yes. I write down what clothes I’m going to wear on which day.

I’m already maxed out on my luggage, so I don’t want to pack anything I don’t need. I also don’t want a debate in the morning over what to wear. If I make those decisions before I leave, more time for other things.

Before I leave home I assume I’ll have lots of spare time in between presentations for other things. I’m either a chronic optimist or an idiot.

You would think after 25 years of doing this I would realize that there isn’t much free time in between anything. Not if I want to get from one place to another, take all the stuff that I brought with me to the next place, eat, and sleep.

I schedule myself pretty tight. At first it was because I only traveled once a month and only for a long weekend. Jen was little and I wanted her to know who I was when I got home. Later, I crammed as much as I could into the shortest time possible because I wanted to be available to take care of Mom.

But there was always the fear that I would have a minute or two where I’d be just sitting there with NTD (Nothing To Do). I am not good at NTD. So, to be productive and to reward myself at the end of the day I packed TTDs: Things To Do.

TTDs (Things To Do)
I always have my laptop. But it’s hard to find a plug in the airport, and harder to type in coach if the person in front wants to tilt their chair back. The mouse is impossible to work unless I drive it up my thigh, and it won’t stay there, so my cursor slides all over the place. So I bring paperwork, letters to answer, patterns to proof, I skim the first 3 inches of stuff off the top of my desk. I can always read, underline, and highlight on the plane. Eventually I’ll get to a hotel with a desk and wireless Internet.

I have to have sewing. I’ve pieced more than one quilt by hand over the years while buckled into my seat. But on night flights the light isn’t great, so I bring a book too. I love mysteries. Helps keep my mind off the age of the plane and the youth of the pilot. Heaven forbid I should tilt MY seat back and just sit there staring at the inside of my eyelids.

Now I bring my new iPhone, which has a million hours of music and episodes of my favorite television shows loaded on. And my iPod because I can listen to podcasts to drown out the sounds of traffic and other hotel guests. It plays ONE and then goes silent unlike the iPhone which goes on forever apparently. And a book.

Got to have the camera in case I need to take a high resolution shot of something. The iPone is there for blog photos and for the web site. And a 150 GB external hard drive in case I need to access every single document while I’m away from home.

I might work on a quilt pattern.

In short, just to be SURE, I pack way more than I need….just in case I have “down time.” That happens so infrequently I have almost forgotten what down time is. Still it’s one of the goofy things I do that makes travel less stressful for me.

 So what did I do on the trip besides teach? I finished four miniature Invisibly Appliqued quilt blocks, proofed a pattern, made 5 phone calls, read two articles on social marketing, watched an episode of West Wing, listened to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and answered about 50 emails. In short about 2% of the things I brought along with me that I could have done. When, I don’t know. Nevertheless, I was prepared.

I’m home now. Madison is happy.  I’m off to the mall this afternoon. Yeah, I have a list. And I have sewing in my purse and a thimble in my pocket… just in case.

30 thoughts on “List Making, NTD, and TTDs

  1. Speaking of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, didn’t I hear Jen’s name a couple years ago as the mail-in person the on-air guest was playing for?? Now I know why such a young person was a listener.
    And yes, I have the same syndrome of carrying way too much, just in case I have time for it. But I’m not nearly as industrious actually doing any of it.


  2. Ami,

    I always say, “if there’s room, why not take it?” I pack everything, including the kitchen sink. For me, I just never know what will strike my fancy. My problem is that I’ll usually come home with more. I’ve purchased many a mismatched suitcase over the years to get it home!



  3. Ami, I’m the same way. My worst nightmare is being someplace with NTD! Never happens but just the same…….I usually bring 2 books – the light may not be good enough for stitching – although now I have a portable light with a magnifier that goes in my bag! This list goes on…….


  4. My English paper piecing Grandmother’s Flower Garden project goes with me whenever I travel…in fact, that’s the ONLY time I work on it! At this rate, I’ll be 100 before I have enough blocks to actually make anything with them. I have been known to take clothes or shoes out of my suitcase in order to put in a couple of NTD items – always including the tattered Ziploc bag with the flower garden supplies!


  5. Fantastic! I feel so much better realizing that I’m not the only one with the phobia of NTD! I would die if I was idle. I’m looking at your list for more ideas for mine Love this.


  6. Ah, Ami, it’s nice to know there is someone else out there like me. My husband looked at me the other day and asked “Do you ever just do nothing?” Heaven forbid! I think it’s one of the burdens of creative people–time is for making stuff, doing something–you can’t just do NOTHING! You can even a crossword puzzle while you’re in the bathroom!
    You are not alone.


  7. I think if there was such a thing when we were children, you and I (and a great many others) would probably have been diagnosed as ADHD. As the Dobby of two “ADHD” grandsons, I learn more about me every time we play together….how sad that so many of these children are made to feel less-than-perfect by people with NO patience and LESS intellectual curiosity! How wonderful that their minds are as hyperactive as their bodies! How wonderful that, some years, the two boys have teachers who appreciate and encourage!

    P.S. I don’t want to tell you what I packed for our recent 9 days in Denver!!!! Which coincided with your recent visit to Pennsylvania. Which is why I missed you entirely. Daggone.



  8. This just cracked me up. I can “so” relate. I also pack everything to avoid the NTD syndrome. I recently took a zip lock bag full of applique blocks to work on on a bareboat sailing trip to the Grenadine Islands – just in case. Needless to say – the rocking of a sailboat is not good for tiny stitches! I fear boredom like a teenager – even when vacationing in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. I prefer to think of this as a sign of intelligence- not obsessive compulsive behavior!


  9. You go girl! I’m a list person myself. I don’t think I could function w/o them. All my PHD’s (Projects Half Done), Christmas presents, birthdays, etc. Since the age of the computer – they’re much easier to maintain.


  10. I do the exact same thing when planning vacation, must have four books, one of each genre that I read. Two or three knitting projects, as many magazines as I can find in the month before I go. I have been known to take fabric and rotary cutter. Several games for my Nintendo DS. Colored pencils and graph paper, even though I don’t design my own stuff. And maybe it is time to try to learn to use the lucet, and you never know, I could try my hand at crochet again……
    I pack more ‘activites’ than clothes…..
    I carry emergency knitting and a book in my purse at all times.


  11. Me too, me too! I am definitely NTD phobic! I always have crossword puzzles stashed in my purse. People lift my purse (if I can’t warn them ahead of time) and always say “What are you carrying in here?”. What was bad was when my kids were little and I had to pack TTD for myself and for them. I got stopped and searched at the airport one time because the scanner person couldn’t figure out what on earth I was carrying in my purse. It was a bunch of little hot wheels cars for my son. (the storybooks were in a different bag)


  12. I love this. However I can suggest one more thing for your carry-on. How about something to sleep in if you have an unexpected layover during winter months? We were sent to a northern, cold, city at Christmastime, because we couldn’t land at “our” airport. I slept in my bra and panties so not to wrinkle my clothes…boy, it was cold in that unheated room they gave us. Now I pack a t-shirt at least!


  13. Ok so maybe skim only an inch of stuff off the desk next trip! Less weight to carry and you’ll feel like you got tons done!


  14. Sounds like we are two of a kind, Ami!! Today is packing day for my trip to Michigan (including Flint!!), and I have a list of stuff to take along on the plane–pencil puzzle book, mystery, knitting, hand sewing, etc. Mustn’t die of boredom, you know! LOL

    In reading all the comments, I’m thinking I’m going to have to get one of those Nintendo Ds’s, too…..No IPod or IPhone yet, though, and not in the plans for now. And my laptop is Huge, so it will stay home. :-(

    Mom used to say when I was a kid, I had to have something to do every minute. No surprise, considering how I am now! LOL


  15. I’m a list maker too (computerized check list after I decide what I am going to wear on what day, which projects to take, etc.)- I always take at least one hand quilting, an applique project or two, at least two books, and my palm pilot (solitare, music, other games). As most of my travel is in a car, I also take a travel pillow which I use for resting my hands on when doing my projects or reading – and resting my head on if I get sleepy. I’v ediscovered I can hand quilt, hand piece, cross stitch, or read in the car – but can’t applique or embroider without mega eye strain and poor stitching. Like most of the comments stated – I can’t stand having NTD – can’t even watch TV without a quilting of some sort project or at least a book. Sad huh?


  16. I carry “stuff” to do in airports but find I enjoy people watching so much that I forget to do. When I actually start a project, many people have to stop, inquire, give advice, tell me family history stories of their grandmother’s projects or just babble on. That’s when its time for a potty break.


  17. I can totally relate to your TTDs. I’ve always packed an “activity bag” whenever we traveled. I used to pack 2 or 3, but recently have limited it to 1. And, like you, I get to about 2% of the things that I pack. (Sewing or knitting, a book, magazines, sudoko book complete with pencils & sharpener)


  18. Y’know…. when does a woman EVER have NTD? Even at bedtime I’m ‘researching’ the next day’s activities. In fact, I often lose sleep over it.

    Fortunately, or not, I do not have all those gadgets you referred to… Ipods, Iphone, or much airplane time. But, my trip to Hawaii in May 2008 for Jason and Shannon’s wedding was the last time I was on a plane and I was so busy ‘enjoying’ the view out the last row seat on a very turbulent flight, I couldn’t have threaded a needle, let alone plug an Ipod into my ear. In fact, I was hoping not to find my breakfast 3 hours after consuming it ! Oops.

    Love your blogs,


  19. Travel without extra little things to do? I travel with my sewing machine and at least two projects. Then there are the books to read and my husband’s laptop to keep the bank accounts balanced. Also, we travel with to large dogs. That means enough dog food, leases and plastic bags to scoop with. Sometimes we have to leave the dogs at a kennel, but we visit every day. The last time we were invited to come back soon. I think they liked it when I started talking to their pet bird and got him/her to talk back. My husband thought I was crazy.
    There never is enough time to do everything that I want to do. I also read while watching TV. Something to do if the plot is boring or during the commercials.
    I don’t think I am ADHD or obsessive compulsive , but you never can tell. I have been told I am A. retentive. I like a place for everthing and everything in it’s place, but I’m too busy to put things away. Go figure.
    I am sure that Madison is glad to have Mom home. Our two dogs litteraly pout when we leave the house.


  20. Oh Ami, I so identify with the big NTD fear. Some people worry about packing too much clothing, but half of my “stuff” for a trip is books and quilting. I never touch half of what I bring, but I continue to be obsessed about NEVER experiencing NTD.

    By the way – audio books are a great thing to bring. Lots of libraries have services where you can download audio books. Makes me feel MUCH more secure.


  21. In fear of NTD, I packed a quilt project, crochet and embroidery for a 5 day trip to Idaho last week. I think I spent a total of one hour on all three projects combined. But next time, I will probably take more. The next trip is a one month camper trip to NM and CO to visit my two quilter daughters. Yes, even my old Pfaff goes in the trailer in case I find electrical hookups in the campgrounds. I love sitting in the camper during down time with my faithful old sewing machine and the latest quilt project.


  22. Ami,

    After reading your blog, and 27 comments, I am totally non-plussed! There is nothing left for me to say except that I’m glad I’m me. Daydreaming, people-watching, and more daydreaming, reading—. Don’t get me wrong, I admire all the industriousness, “project completeness”.

    I’m a great audience for all of you. Just can’t emulate it, not even close, and am at an age where that’s OK too. Like a patchwork quilt, it takes all of us to make intriguing art!


  23. Another “me too” here. I have little ones and try to cram as much teaching into as short a time as possible. I’m sure you’re like me and fill your two 50lb suitcases to the max with teaching supplies and end up carrying around your TTD for the two minutes of NTD that you have during the trip.

    I wouldn’t be a listmaker if I hadn’t lost so many brain cells during pregnancy and childbirth that my brain is like a sieve. On the road if I didn’t write it down I would have no idea where I was, where I was going, and what the heck I was teaching. I call my lists my Paper Brain.

    Smiling and commiserating with you here!


  24. I also travel for work, but my situation is reversed. My legal home is Illinois, but I work in Dallas. I go home for a long weekend once a month. I bring projects from Dallas to work on at home just in case I have NTD in Illinois!



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