November Update Series: Projects

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If I had to sum up the days with Vanessa now with one word, it would be: PROJECTS. Oh, the projects. Most are organizational/cleaning or decorating in nature. They just spontaneously form, and are nothing Vanessa thinks out ahead of time, although many of them span days so she is waking up and right away continuing any longer project she was working on the day before. We can’t direct them, either, for the most part – we could bring some project we came up with and all the related stuff to do it, but V could take one look and be all “eh”. The ones that “stick” are mostly the ones that pop into her own head and take hold for whatever reason.

The decorating projects have mainly been hanging up a good number of framed pictures around the house, as well as many “Live Sincerely” signs and art that some of you may have sent her. I believe V & B may soon be clear out of wall space!

Decorating! Many handmade and beautifully sincere items given to Vanessa. I have to admit that the top left saying, which I have always loved, stabs me in the heart just a little now with the "cancer cannot suppress memories" part, as it is proving it very much can and is doing that now in V. The middle picture shows a framed gift V gave B back in their college days, and look at how young they look in that picture from the same time! :)

For the organizing and cleaning projects, while they are all-consuming for her and she works on them with singular determination and focus, the end goal or purpose is not always evident, even to Vanessa. Sometimes you can see where it’s coming from: for example, a recent project she undertook over 3 days (all day each day) involved cutting the tags out of each of the coats in the closet, marking each coat with sharpie with the size, and then meticulously applying clear scotch tape to each removed tag and trimming it to size. The task seems random and parts of it just were, but you can guess some possible motivation behind the underlying concept, such as wanting to get rid of an annoying tag against your skin, perhaps. The final project just then takes that potential motivation to the extreme, adding many many steps, in this case including sorting off the cut-off tags in size order, and laminating them for unclear purposes.

After she cut the tags off them, she marked all the coats with their size in sharpie. However, after cutting the tags off she often got confused and no longer knew what size a particular one was, so those she marked with a big ?. Then the bottom pics show the tags she cut out. The first picture is where she arranged them in a row, in order from XS - XL. The second picture shows the tape "lamination" that she applied and trimmed to be exact.

Other projects seem totally random: like the one involving finding and then lining up on the counter all the mugs/cups with lids – and then loosening each lid, just slightly. When I asked her (very benignly) what that action was helping with, she got silent for a moment, then said “I don’t know, it’s kind of crazy. {pause.} But, it’s all I can do right now, so, ok. {more loosening, no real concerns.}”

More frequently, though, she just feels generically driven in these daily created projects, and makes less self-aware comments such as “OK, I just need to keep making progress. I want to just wrap this up and get it done.”

Vanessa and Billy’s house is certainly the cleanest it’s ever been as a result of all the cleaning! Vanessa is organizing drawers, going through papers, and sorting piles. Everywhere, things are all very particularly arranged – V lines up all pens on a table with lids the same way, sorts candy by color and type, and all paper is shredded immediately after reading. Recycling things (cutting off any labels, flattening it out, sorting) and loading the dishwasher (she constantly is monitoring for dirty dishes anywhere in the house) are of a paramount importance to her day. Almost the second the last drop of your drink enters your mouth, Vanessa is asking you to hand her the cup so she can take it to the kitchen. ;)

Organization! Top left, counter clockwise: Beads sorted by color/type and lined up in rows within the compartments; hats stacked in big to little order; 2 mugs that Mom had to take her to Kroger immediately one day to buy in order to separately house the pens from the sharpies (all standing lids up); it's kind of hard to tell, but there the candy and food is all sorted by type and in individual baggies or green glass bowls, including the ramen noodle packs in a very decorative bowl; her shoes that make me happy because so nicely organized, but also make me sad because they are all flats and gym shoes and sandals now, and she was always SUCH a heels and strappy sandals kind of girl in healthier days.




This is part 4 of a series of update posts for November. (You can start here to read them in order.)

Tomorrow’s topic will be: Day to day

We’ll add one post a day for the next few days until we’ve covered everything, so please stay with us through them all!


  1. Kathy Rowell says:

    Thank you for taking the time and energy to keep us updated. I think of Vanessa often and always whisper a prayer that God keeps his hand upon you all.

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