A fresh start on setting priorities

Nearly five months ago I suspended my consulting and freelance business in the face of Robert’s then-impending surgery to remove a large melanoma from his scalp. I was too distracted, not to mention too busy with medical appointments and emotional upheaval, to concentrate on work, and I didn’t want to let any clients down by not meeting deadlines or by handing in sub-par assignments.

Now that the scare of a four- to eight-month prognosis is behind us and Robert’s status is “healthy” and “No Evidence of Disease,” the question comes up from time to time: am I “ready” to go back to work? And the answer is – NO!

I had a very busy summer playing Nurse Ratched in June and July, and then traveling to New England in August and to Asheville and Ft. Lauderdale in September. October has been a waste, basically – I have nothing to show for it. As a matter of fact, this post was inspired by my weekly Saturday phone date with my mother, who (as usual) asked what I had done this week. I couldn't think of a thing! I was busy all week, to be sure – there weren’t any patches of time when I batted around looking for something to do. Where did the time go?

I’m sure if I thought hard about it I could come up with something useful or productive to report for the last seven days. But off the top of my head, I can only come up with things I didn’t do. Two quickly come to mind: write about the upcoming melanoma vaccine trial at Johns Hopkins, and start the email correspondence with our Thanksgiving crew to plan the menu.

Both of those things will be on my immediate list of tasks. But first, I’m taking on an even more important one – setting priorities for this next period of time, however long it lasts. I’m sure this list will change over time, but here’s my starting point:

1.      Taking “care” of Robert

As I told one of the nurses at Hopkins last week, my main job right now is to see to it that Robert can continue to do what he wants for as long as possible. To some extent that means looking out for his well-being when he loses track of what’s important. I have to walk a fine line here so I don’t become the nagging, fawning wifey I’ve never been – but I do want him to wear sunscreen and a big floppy hat, get some exercise, and do whatever else the doctors tell him to do.

I plan to accompany him on all his medical appointments for the vaccine trial. I also plan to go with him to the dermatologist on a search for any suspicious spots on his body. I want to learn what to look for and photograph any moles or freckles that bear watching, as Dr. Lipson  suggested.

2.      Taking care of myself

I probably can’t do #1 if I don’t do this, so I might as well state this priority near the top of my list.

My gym schedule will undoubtedly slip a bit – I can’t work out four days a week and at the same time go to all those medical appointments, particularly not in weeks when we have to see doctors two or three times. I’ve had a regular morning gym routine for months – muscle training on Mondays, abs and stretch on Tuesdays, active yoga on Wednesdays, and TRX on Fridays. I’ll go as often as I can, and fill in with long walks with Chewey, yoga at home, or some kind of aerobic exercise as I need to.

I also plan to keep working on my diet. I’ve lost about 25 pounds and would like to keep it off. Besides, I like cooking and eating healthy foods. I’m going to try to wrestle some of the weekday cooking away from Robert, even if it means putting up with how he “cleans” the kitchen afterwards ...

3.      Working on this website

I registered my name as a URL last winter with the intention of moving my work website there over the following year. When I started this blog last June, I did so at that URL. As we approach time to renew my by-words URLs, I would like to build this website into one that can replace the one I set up when I started freelancing in 2007.

My goal of learning more about Drupal 7 is only partially accomplished. Of course with Drupal there’s always more to learn, and I don’t have a plan for how to do this on my own. But it is important because ...

My work website is a mess! It was more important for me to work on it when I was actively looking for clients, but with BNA projects and Risk Retention Reporter taking up all my work time over the last couple of years I have not kept it up. The portfolio is lacking, and I never did make the visual presentation work out the way I wanted it to. But I don’t want to put any more time into it – this website offers me a clean slate.

It’s time to envision what I want my web presence to be, whether I stay retired or not. As I know from working with clients, this is not an easy job – and I don’t expect to complete it by the by-words.com renewal date. But I would like to get it done before I have to think again about whether to “go back to work.” April, after the Hopkins trial is over? We’ll see.


I think three big ones is enough to articulate in one day. We’ll revisit this topic again over time.