Support For Christi Thomas

This blog is to help offer support to the Thomas Family and their daughter, Christi, in her battle against cancer. Please visit Christi's website at www.ChristiThomas.com to learn more. There, you'll find journals, photos and a lots of other information about this amazing child and her family.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Little Nugget

In chatting with a neighbor yesterday about a mutual friend undergoing chemo and dealing with hair loss, she told me about an incident that happened with her daughter (younger than Christi) when the two girls were playing together at her house in the summer before Christi died. I'd never heard it before and it made me chuckle. She said the girls were playing and her daughter said, "Christi! Your hair! It's gone!" She said Christi laughed and said, "It's been gone for quite a while; you just noticed?!" Too funny! I LOVE when I learn some new little "nugget" about Christi that I never knew before. I know one day those will all be gone, but I really do think of them as little kisses from Christi. Like yesterday, going through Shayla's old shirts and coming across some that Christi wore too. I couldn't part with them. I just couldn't do it. (PHOTO: Summer 2006, Christi, 9)

I'm going to share a poem below that sums up so much for us. I hope you have a wonderful new year!

The Mention of Her Name
(Author Unknown)

The mention of my Child's name
May bring tears to my eyes,
But it never fails to bring
Music to my ears.

If you are really my friend,
Let me hear the beautiful music of her name.
It soothes my broken heart
And sings to my soul.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Rejoice! Our Savior is Born!

"Was Santa here?" Shayla's down the stairs and ready to find out!

Isaiah 9:6 "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given"






Christi may not have been here, but her cat (Buckeye) was enjoying the Christmas morning festivities.









Cuddling with my little sweetie! She had a wonderful Christmas! She's spending her afternoon with her new toys. She especially likes the remote control helicopter that is now flying all over our living room. For the first time ever, she was thrilled to receive clothes for Christmas gifts.









It's still tough to see just one stocking filled. Shayla was happy with her little prizes in her snowman stocking yet I couldn't shake the fact that the other matching stocking hung flat and lifeless from the mantle. I know I must be thankful - and I am - that there was one filled. Too many of our friends have lost their only child to cancer.

Christi's last winter of life (2006) was a very tough one for her - many nights of hospital stays, severe treatments, lots of horrific pain and too many days separated from family and friends by hundred of miles. A sweet point was the many "strangers" who befriended Christi and sent her little treats. She especially liked some warm (and oh so soft) socks some sweet lady (I wish I could remember who) mailed her. Christi really liked those pairs of socks (and I feel guilty I never once wrote a thank you note to anyone during her 4 years of treatment and her funeral yet I justified it at the time by thinking, "No one is sending anything to receive a thank you. They just want to share their love for Christi." And I did not want to take any precious time away from enjoying her by writing thank you notes. Times were also very scary financial. Shayne was unemployed for 2 1/2 of those four years and much of it was spent living on my part time teacher salary.) ANYWAY.....because I wanted Christi to be a part of our Christmas I am wearing one of her favorite pairs of socks today! I've worn these pairs of socks, during the winter, each year since she died. It might sound crazy for me to say they make me feel close to her, but really they do! Merry CHRISTICHRISTMAS, Christi (as I used to joke with her)! May you be enjoying your day with the real Birthday Boy while I try to live my life in a way that will get me there too!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fantasy of Lights at Upper

Because of Christi's love for Upper Saudusky's amazing Christmas light display, we donated $200 to help sponsor the event in her memory this year. I figured that's how much I would have spent on her Christmas gifts might as well try to help bring joy to hundreds since I can't see Christi's smile and delight at the opening of her presents. (It's hard to believe this will be our 4th Christmas without her. I remember the last one so vividly.) I know our little sweetpea has everything she needs or wants in Heaven now, but........I still miss her. I can't help that. She was awesome, most of the time (smile).


If you get a chance to make it to Upper before December 31st you won't be disappointed. It's at Harrison Park close to downtown and only $5.00 donation per car. The drive through the park is about 30 minutes.


Sometimes things are sad for us because it's just three and often quiet. We asked Shay if she wanted to invite a friend to go along with us to see the lights and she did. Their giggling made me remember the good times when the girls would laugh and chat away in the back of our vehicles. Thank God for friends, we are blessed with awesome ones!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Program Today

Today is Shayla's Christmas program for Grandparents at her school. She was so excited about singing and playing her flute in the school show for her grandma Nee Nee. It was just for grandparents so I doubt I'll have any photos. This photo was of Christi's last Christmas program, 3rd grade. She loved it!


December 2002: Age 5, Christi plays at COSI with Traci & Jenn. I was so fortunate to get to meet them for a long lunch one day last week. I LOVED how at the end of our time together they were sharing their "Christi & Shayla" memories that I really didn't know about. Those gals are the sweetest!




December 2004: The gingerbread house Christi made with Aunt Marty






Christi's talk with Santa, December 2004





Christi's' last Christmas, December 2005 - giving her little cousin a piggy back ride. I'll never forget how Will cried and cried during Christi's funeral. He was sitting behind me and I kept thinking, "Perhaps I should reach around and pull him up on my lap to comfort him or something."


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas by Shayla Thomas


I think the spirit of Christmas is giving because Christ (CHRISTmas) was a gift to us. I think if you have the Christmas spirit you are merry and kind. You can show your spirit by doing something you didn't need to do such as extra chores or by giving your time.

I also think if you have the Christmas spirit you get with your family. Christmas should reunite the whole family. You can show this part by calling a relative that you might not have spoken to for a while.

By Shay Thomas, age 10 1/2



Shayla enjoyed celebrating Christmas and spending much of Saturday with Nee Nee. (We all did!). We suggested she pack some games to take. It was hard to see one of Christi's favorite games - Cranium. We had not played that, "Since those pink whale people stayed with us," Shayla said. She's right! When the Rally guys, biking across the country raising money for pediatric cancer awareness, stayed here in mid-August of 2006 we played it with them - and then never again. Whenever it was suggested, I steered those wanting to play a game in another direction because I couldn't stomach it. It was one of Christi's favorites; we played it at "the end". I decided it was time to muster up the courage and to play it. We had a ball! Shayla thanked her grandma for playing saying, "We can't play this anymore. It's for four players and we only have three in our family."


Sunday found Shayla at her great aunt and uncle's home enjoying their side's family Christmas. Her great aunt Joyce gave her some wonderful horse books she's been avidly reading ever since. We had a lovely evening at great aunt Steve & El's home, despite the fact we all longed to have grandma and uncle John there with us too (and cousin Joe & Grandpa & Christi). Their deaths still seem so fresh. We miss them all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

That's All Now - the Graduation Day

I heard a cow bell ringing when I entered the arena, looked up and waved, but had no idea it WAS SHAYLA! When Gil sent this picture down to me on the floor, I nearly laughed out loud. She's typically a very well behaved, politely mannered little lady. But I guess she was so proud of her mom. And I'm so proud of her. She recently wrote: I am thankful for pets, family and education. I'm thankful for her! And for Christi. I used to sometimes think it would have been better if Christi had never been born because I would not know such pain, yet now I've come to realize I would not know true love if I didn't know true loss like I do.

Angela's Little Speech for Luncheon (to be read by Jenn on my behalf because I will cry)

I wanted you all to know how grateful I am to you. Without your help, I would not be graduating today. I will forever be filled with gratitude. Thank you very much!

First of all, to my esteemed doctoral advisor, Dr. Mary Jo Fresch (pin coursage on Dr. Fresch) who guided me through my years of the doctoral program and who believed in me when I questioned myself, thank you! Dr. Fresch provided me with constant reassurance. I owe her deep gratitude for supporting me, encouraging me and assuring me with her expertise and insight throughout my various endeavors over the years. I’ve been incredibly blessed with an outstanding advisor, professor, role model, cheerleader and friend.


To Tony & Corinne, our cousins: Thank you allowing me to overnight in your beautiful home, so close to campus, many times throughout my journey. It was a special blessing for me to be already in Columbus when I had my most important exams, interviews and classes, especially in the wicked winter weather.


To my sister, Tina: On many of my long drives home from campus, I’m so glad you took my calls and helped me pass the time. I adore you and your precious family so much. Thanks for being here with me today. It means so much to me!


To Jenn & Traci, our strangers turned friends we met at COSI just days before Christi was diagnosed with cancer: I will never forget having a required interview and orientation session for a special literacy program I wanted desperately to participate in the midst of my doc program. It was 2006. If accepted, it would be a huge blessing for our family as it would allow me to take a few on-line classes, providing me with more precious time at home with the girls instead of driving for so many hours. On the day of my required interview and orientation session at Ohio State, I realized I had to get Christi to Philadelphia, because her blood counts came back terribly low that morning at the hospital before school.
During my lunch break, I booked our flights. After school, I took off with Christi to Ohio State where sweet Jenn met us on campus and whisked Christi away to COSI (one of her most favorites places) where, despite feeling miserable, she had a ball with Jenn & Traci until I picked her up after my interview and somehow got us to our flight on time. Upon our arrival in Philadelphia very late that Friday night, Christi was admitted to the hospital and I was so grateful our friends cared for Christi so that I could get into a program that would allow me to actually finish my degree at a time when I was seriously contemplating dropping out. Without my acceptance into that program, I’m positive I would not be graduating today. I was very near the point of giving up during that time because I didn’t know how I could really ever finish the required coursework and all of the rigor and demands entailed. I had actually contacted other universities to see what was required in getting a lesser degree. Without such sweet help with Christ’s child care that day after school, I would not be graduating today. Thank you so much, Jenn and Traci!


Tricia & Aaron, my cousins, you gave our daughters so much happiness while blessing us with great comfort knowing our girls were in great care while I was in class and driving back and forth. I’ll never forget how disappointed Shayla when I told her I had completed my coursework and that she didn’t need to go to any more babysitters. “Can I still go to Tricia’s just for fun sometime?” she asked.


To Dr. Lori, my friend: In the midst of your own health battles, you always so lovingly reached out to help me. You are an inspiration to me. When you went and graduated, (smile) I missed our carpooling and conversations terribly. Those were very special times. Christi and Shayla also had very special times being in your home with your beautiful family while I was at class – thank you!


Mom and Joan, I will never forget the many times you met me at our house right after school so that I rush off to class. You would lovingly stay with the girls until Shayne came home from work. THANK YOU!






Joe, you were and still are always so interested in what I was studying and learning about, always so positive that my work will one day make a difference for schools across the country. You have more faith in me than I do myself. Thank you for loving me and being such a great father to me. I don’t deserve you!


Marty & Jeff (my aunt and uncle): Some of Christi’s final days in Ohio were spent in your home as she happily played with your animals and enjoyed your company very much. Thank you for all of the babysitting you so kindly provided over the years so that I could continue meeting all of my requirements at OSU.


Shayne: As I was leaving for my very first class in January of 2004, you said to me, “Don’t hook up with some good-looking gym teacher, ok?” Shayne, I’m only interested in staying hooked up with a great-looking business guy, ok?” Seriously, words cannot adequately express my gratitude to have your unconditional understanding, patience, humor and love as I have endured this lengthy process. Throughout the six years, you helped me through each and every step of this incredible journey. Your undying love and support, not only during this doctoral process, but with all of my undertakings over past the 25 years we have been together, allows me to accomplish my goals and to achieve my dreams, thank you.


Shayla: (give little corsage to Shay) Throughout my doctoral program, you have been my biggest cheerleader and my proudest supporter always encouraging me. You understood when I would leave you in the care of others for my studies and were often saddened when I picked you up because of the special attention you received from friends and family. You cannot possibly ever know the enormity of my love and devotion to you and how very proud I am of you, young lady. I am the luckiest mom on earth to be blessed with a daughter as wonderful as you. Thank you for richly blessing my life. I love you so much!


Three very special people are not with us today. First of all to my internet friend, Olivia who resides in New York. (pause) Who knew such a horrific childhood disease could create such a great friendship?! Trust me, we’d both much rather have our loved ones back here on earth than to have our wonderful friendship, but I’m so glad to have my sweet “Dartmouth Grad” on my side. She is a gem! Thank you to Olivia who lovingly proofread and edited much of my work over the past couple of years and shared her many questions and thoughts with me. (Who’s ERIC? Ah, I guess you have to be in education to know that one! Hee hee!) I really wish Olivia was here celebrating with us today. If I were wealthy, I would have flown her in to join us! I did give it serious thought, but decided it would be just too expensive. I know I wouldn’t be here today without Olivia in my life.


To my deceased father, Vince. He was also so proud of me. I vividly remember going off to college at BGSU as an 18 year old; I think he was the proudest dad on campus carrying all of my “stuff” into my dorm. If he were here right now, I’d definitely be giving mom “that look” trying to get her to get him to stop bragging me up, because that is exactly what he would be doing. The angel pin I’m will wear on my graduation robe this afternoon is in loving memory of my father, Vincent Falter and if they pronounce my name the way I have requested, that will also be because I believe my dad is with me as he has been throughout this journey and all of my accomplishments in my life.


Finally, the hardest one, to Christi: You are the reason I am obtaining a longtime dream of earning a doctorate degree. Through your battle with cancer you taught me that life is short and one should not put off achieving their dreams. From the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, I applied for OSU’s Ph.D. program. You were always so interested in what I was reading and learning about. In the midst of my residency, you earned your angel wings. I had many “talks” with on during the long, lonely drives home from classes. You’ve continued to keep me going with memories of your beautiful little giggle and your incredible wit. In your memory, today I wear the print of your thumb I captured while you were on your deathbed and your first communion Crucifix you were so happy to get the day you received Jesus around my neck. The second angel pin pinned to my graduation robe will be for you. I thank God for you! (Picture: December 2003 - Ronald McDonald House of Philadelphia, Christi 6)


Thank you everyone for being here with me today to celebrate the end of this long journey!
Before we enjoy our lunch, I’ve asked Traci to say a prayer to our loving Father for me. I know He is truly the reason we are all gathered here today and I think it would be too emotional for me to say that one as well. Thanks, Traci!


After lunch, I would like to have a balloon release, lead by Shayla. This balloon release will be a symbolic way to reach out to Christi so that she knows she is the reason I’m here today and that I love and miss her so much, yet want her to be rejoicing in Heaven, enjoying the balloons with all of her little friends.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Philippians 4:13

"I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me" Philippians 4:13.

I only earned my degree because of Him; therefore, I asked Traci (aka Harriett) to say grace before our meal. She did a fabulous job and I thank her!

Heavenly Father, we come together today to celebrate Angela, her kindness, her accomplishments, and most of all her presence in our lives. As she graduates today, wrap her in the comfort of Your love, secure in the knowledge that You, and Christi, and Vince, and all of us here are watching her with pride. Let her continue to be an example of faith, strength, and joy to all who know her. May she never stop learning, always love teaching, and always remember the strength and patience it took to get to where she is today. We lift her up with joy and pride, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Graduation Day

Getting ready to leave for graduation on Sunday morning I said to Shayne, "This is really happening. I am so lucky." He responded, "Luck had nothing to do with it. You worked hard, made many sacrifices and stuck with the strategic decisions you made to get you there." I thought, "Awwww..I love this guy!" (And yes, I had many good reasons to quit along the way, but thank the Lord, I did not!) Later I received a graduation card from a friend that backed up Shayne's words. It said, "God blessed you with a good mind, and He placed some opportunity in your way, but all that hard work - that was all you." My graduation day was simply magical. I really cannot describe it in any other way. To be able to spend time with our close family and friends at the luncheon was awesome! To be hooded by my sweet University Advisor who did not even need to attend graduation to hood me at all, but who did - I'm so blessed. (And we are currently working together on two projects so that is way cool in my little rookie world!) I know it was a long day for my family/friends, it was a long day for me, but they are THE GREATEST! I may not be lucky, but I am tremendously blessed! (And because I love my family so much, I will not even post the pictures I've received via cell phone during the ceremony of them NAPPING during my graduation ceremony - was it really that boring?! The texts and pics I received from my family were so funny. They are awesome.) Regarding the ceremony: I didn't expect it to be as emotional as it was but as soon as I walked in, made it to a place where I could safely turn to look up to find my family (and to hear them yelling and Shayla ringing a cow bell even though they were three layers up and I could barely see them - even with my 20/15 laser vision surgery eyes) tears started pouring out of my eyes and didn't want to stop. I could only think of the many sacrifice they put up with while I was often tied to my computer, my books, my students and traveling to and from classes. I may not be lucky, but I'm definitely very fortunate and very blessed! I'll share some pictures soon. Aunt Marty shared hers with me and when my mom returns (all too soon, so sad) back to Florida I think she'll send hers my way so I can share. I understand Joe took a bunch for me. And Joe - what a gem....the day before I left my special pillow I have to sleep with due to my neck "issue", on the airplane. Mom and Joe flew in about six hours after Shay and I did. Joe went back to the airport TWICE and he was able to track down my pillow for me. (Had it wrapped up in a present which was totally hilarious, but thank God for Joe!) In Savannah mom said to someone in our group, "Joe's going back to Ohio in December - only because Angela asked him to. He wouldn't go to Ohio in December for any other reason, but when Ang said she wanted him to attend her graduation, he couldn't book his flight fast enough to be there for her." I love that awesome dad too! The little video clips show me arriving in the Shot and also receiving my diploma from Dr. Gee, president of the Ohio State University. Before he awarded diplomas he assured us, "This will be the last line you will ever have to stand in at OSU." Ahhhhhhhhh! God is good! I was so glad Dr. Fresch was there to hood me, I hugged her and held her hand as far as I could hold it up the ramp to the stage where we separated. She blew me a kiss and I felt so proud walking across that stage. I wore two angel pins on my gown - one for my deceased father and the other for Christi. I "spoke" with them many times during my long drives to and from class and they helped get me through tough times during the six year journey.

video

Saturday, December 12, 2009

OSU's Autumn Commencement


Not that anyone would really want to see me graduate, and of course I'll post pictures soon; however, if total boredom exists:

Autumn Commencement
Live Video Stream and Television Broadcast


For those family members and friends who are unable to attend the Ohio State University's Commencement, the University is pleased to offer a live video stream of the ceremony beginning at 2:00 PM on Sunday, December 13, 2009.

Click here to view the live video stream. http://www.wosu.org/osu-commencement/ or try: http://commencement.osu.edu/video.php

In addition, excerpts from the ceremony will be broadcast on WOSU-TV, Channel 34, on Monday, December 14, at 5:30 p.m.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Conference Humor

I was so nervous about presenting at my first national research conference. I felt I was terribly “out of my league” and I did not focus on anything except presenting my research paper. I was the first time slot so thought when I finished I would then check out the program book and the other sessions to see what I would attend for the rest of the conference. That is not my typical style. Well, God works in mysterious ways! Had I read the rest of the program, without a doubt, I would have made a change to my presentation. Now I am so glad I didn’t.

Thursday morning in the midst of my presentation regarding my study on incorporating international children’s books, I was sharing the research of another researcher and linking my work to this author’s. Much to my total shock, as I started talking about this researcher’s work, I could see some of the attendees turning around and looking at this one Japanese woman. Immediately it hit me, “That’s Dr. Yokota!” (OK, in all honesty it was, “Oh, shit! That’s got to be Dr. Yokota!”) Oh, I hoped I interpreted and conveyed everything about her work properly. Why do you read and study the work of researchers, but never see what they look like; it would really help in a moment like this. Shoot, shoot, shoot! All of the attendees received my 26 page research paper and of course not only did I discuss her work, but she was listed in my references. And not only was she was the first one at my session, arriving about 20 minutes early, but I observed her actually reading my paper and making notes. Yikes! Nothing like talking about someone and having them show up in your session.

Following my presentation, the reactor took questions. I could see that Junko had her hand up, but the reactor kept overlooking her and calling on other professors. “Whew!” I thought. “I can slip out the door before she confronts me.” Well, well, well….the next thing I knew the very serious Dr. Yokota (again with no smile, just a straight face) brought her laptop and sat down beside me. (Oh, the sweat had to be pouring down my body. I just wanted to disappear. I thought, “What am I doing talking with HER?!” She’s the expert on this topic!”)

Well, she was the absolute sweetest! She praised my work, told me she loved what I was doing, thought I must be a very empathetic person, appreciated my texts selections and she offered suggestions of how critical race theory and/or postcolonial theory may play a role in my future work and she gave me the names of some other authors I should check out as well. WHEW! The only thing she questioned was, “I’m just surprised you cited something I did so long ago; I’ve done so much since then. It’s really interesting because I just got an email yesterday from someone in Europe who cited the same study you did.” I told her I thought it still was very timely and important for teachers to know and understand. Oh, praise God! The pressure was off and I then actually thought of myself as more of a “colleague” instead of “expert” vs. “learner”. God is good!

On Friday, Dr. Yokota was our featured luncheon speaker. She asked the percentage of literature in the USA that is international. Now I don’t typically raise my hand, especially when I feel like I’m “out of my league” like I really am at this conference, but I raised my hand and said, “Less than 2%”. Dr. Yokota said, “Angela is right. She would know this because her field is the same as mine.” (I have “a field”. Someone I respect thinks I’m doing something when I question it myself, YES!) During her presentation she said, “We talked about this in Angela’s session yesterday. It’s the pairing of books.” (I was just hoping my boss boss heard that one!)

This was an excellent first research conference for me to attend – and the location (Sanibel Island, Florida) could not have been any better. Shayla spent an amazing few days enjoying the beach, pool, eating and playing games with her grandparents while I’ve been learning a lot. I’ve really enjoyed all of the research being presented and discussed and to be here with 8 other BGSU professors, including my “boss’s boss” has been a terrific blessing.

It's almost time to fly back to Ohio and to celebrate my graduation. It’s now hours away, no longer years or months! I am so blessed! A long time dream is about to come true - along with a few special things to include Christi I have planned for my big day. God is good!

And to a few BGSU students who I know read this blog - I hope you enjoyed the guest speakers. Andrea told me they were awesome. AND I hope are spending as much time studying for your final exam as you are surfing the Internet. I will be back on campus VERY SOON and the final is six pages in length, 80 questions! (Smile, I miss you and can't wait to tell you about this conference and meeting Dr. Yokota. Be well!)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Enjoying Our Blessings

I don't know how Rock Stars party, (and most likely I don't want to know), but it can't be any better than this! Shayla and I have had a wonderful few days with mom and Joe in Florida!

On the way "home" from the airport Sunday we stopped at a mall for lunch (and to buy my suit for graduation).

Thanks to Nonee and Paw Paw for a wonderful visit!
Shay loved hanging out under the tiger.
Gotcha!
Enjoying the big turtle.
Our little ice skater enjoyed Busch Garden's amazing ice skating show.
Only one orb in all of my pictures - this one! In this picture mom and Joe are opening up their Christmas gifts from me, a cookbook for mom and a tie for Joe.
I told Shayla I received an email telling us the weather in Ohio is not very good right now. Shayla laughed and said, "It's 80 in Florida!" She's been a great kid as always. Working with me on her homework, teaching me how to play basketball and reading lots of books! We are so blessed! Now, it's time for me to get back to work while Shayla enjoys the rest of her vacation with her incredible grandparents! I hope you're well!!