When Shayla woke up Monday morning, I told her that I was nervous about my big tests and I feel the best when I am with her. I asked her if I could please take something of hers that I could tuck in my pocket to keep close to my heart and to make me feel better. I was thinking she’d suggest a picture, but that little sweetie thought of the perfect thing – a smashed penny from her collection! I was so honored! That definitely says SHAYLA as she has filled up one little collection book and started a second, a new tradition we started right after Christi died, and that she trusted me to take a treasured penny with me – wow! I arrived about an hour and a half early to “set up” for my exam. (I was told, “Only Angela would decorate her exam room!” But I think they appreciated the snacks and the festive atmosphere perhaps helped me relax.) I took Shayla’s penny out of my pocket and captured this picture with it before my committee arrived. It says "My Lucky Penny" - she immediately knew which one to give me. It's on the cheerleader's skirt here.
Monday, Shayla also helped me gather a few “props” I wanted for my exam to “lighten the mood” and to show that I’m really a creative teacher at heart! While she was looking for certain things she inquired, “Dad asked you all of the hard questions though, right? I think this is all I can help you with today. I won’t know if you’re right or wrong with the answers you tell me if I start asking you questions.” I told her that dad did not know the answers either, but he still made up the questions. Oh, she laughed over that one saying, “Really?” She’d been listening from the backseat during our many hours of driving over the weekend while Shayne was trying to help me prepare. I said, “Yes! How many times did you hear me start off my response with, “Well, if you would have read the packet I prepared, you would not need any additional explanation.” What a hoot!
Yesterday I felt a unique sense of calmness. I cannot quite describe it, but it was not what I would expect. I could only attribute it to the special prayers being said for me from Christi’s bloggers. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! I reflected on all of the sweet notes left here on my drive down. It really, really helped!
Making the two hour drive to campus, I kept trying to review my readings in my head; however, it was almost overwhelming and everything and everyone was mixing together. I told myself that I’ve had to do really difficult things in my life and this isn’t one of them. The outcome didn’t matter; it wasn’t a life or death situation. I kept thinking back to September of 2005 when I drafted Christi’s obituary and to September of 2006 when Dr. Maris called us out in the hall to tell us Christi had a new tumor pushing her brain to the side and I nearly dropped to the floor. Selecting Christi’s casket was a killer when Andrea’s email came in telling me that I had to do it that day if I wanted to get the family picture inside like I did. After that, this should be a piece of cake! I kept trying to put it in God’s hands, but I had to laugh to myself that he was handing it right back; he didn’t want to endure the oral exams either! (smile)
I told myself I was having a run of good luck and things would continue. On Monday, I received word that a grant I wrote for a SMARTboard for my classroom was approved –Can you say, “WOW?!” On Tuesday, I received a $40.00 check and a teacher magazine to be available this fall informing me my teaching idea I submitted was published. Now it was Wednesday and I just needed one more - the BIG one – to pass my Candidacy Exams. (Oh, don’t worry, I spent that $40.00 treating myself to a pedicure on my way home this afternoon! Ahhhhhh!)
I told my advisor in advance, not to worry, but I was going to take no more than two minutes in my opening to do something a bit silly and lighthearted and not to worry, I’d then I would quickly slip back into a scholarly mode. I told her I felt I needed everyone to laugh, and laugh in a big way, to help calm me. (We had too much fun on Monday putting this together with Shayla’s little toys and a trip to the Dairy Queen.) I set this (See picture) up on the table in front of me and explained Spencer Kagan, Ph.D.’s three key elements of cooperative learning – even though this area of research had nothing to do with my four areas I felt it was a good analogy. One element is positive interdependence. I went on to briefly explain that we are all in this together and that, “your gain is my gain, my gain is your gain, or in this case, we sink or swim together.” I let them hoot it up a bit as they looked over their figurine and wondered why only one had gray hair, etc., etc.. Then with a straight face I said, “When I walk back in here around 12 o’clock today, I hope that there are still five of us smoothly sailing in this ship.” When the laughter died down, I started in.
My committee was great! I cannot believe how much fun I had and how enjoyable it was. I won’t say I wasn't scared, nor was I perfect – I was far from that, but two hours later, when I was dismissed, I went to the hallway and texted Shayne, Lori and Olivia basically with the same message, “I’ll be surprised if I don’t pass. It was actually fun.” (Now if any of my fellow OSU students are reading this, please don’t kick me, but it was fun talking about what I actually know about and have studied for so long. The time went so quickly; I know could have talked for two more hours about it.) I only had a couple of questions I don’t think I answered the best and when one professor, after going back and forth with her, finally said, “Well, there is no right or wrong answer to this issue and I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.” Oh my heart fell (but I still think I have good rationale for my line of thinking there). So, in perspective, it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do so far in my life. It was tough at times, but not as difficult or as heated and interrogating as I expected. Praise be to God! Thank you dear prayer warriors!
Surprisingly, I didn’t cry then, but it felt great to hug and thank all of my committee members. (I also gave them “Payday” candy bars. They loved that!) I cut off one balloon I brought to decorate the table and gave the other four to one of the professors who has a four year old (Four balloons for a four year old I told her.) I went out and released that red balloon for Christi, the one whose own journey made me begin my journey in OSU’s Ph.D. program back in the fall of 2003. Then as I sat on the grass, watching that balloon gently and slowly float away, the tears came – no, they gushed. I think, unless I really mess up, there will be a graduation in my future – most likely in June! I just wish I could have called Christi on the cell phone today, just like I called Shayla to tell her of the glorious news.
I filed all of the paperwork, delivered it to the various buildings on campus, ate at a favorite Mexican Restaurant on High Street, picked up my season football tickets and then went to check out the new guys on campus! What do you think? If you don't prefer these, there are many others - very cool!
Finally, before picking Shayla up tonight at Aunt Marty’s (where she had so much fun) I stopped at my gorgeous BGSU friend’s home and had dinner with her sweet and beautiful family. They are absolutely wonderful! I always thought I’d stop and visit with Diane on my many trips back and forth to Columbus, but always in a hurry to get home, it never happened – until tonight. Imagine my surprise when she had a cake that said, “Congratulations, Angela”. Simply, shocking! It was her first day of school today too. She’s amazing! After seven years of taking care of her own precious children, she is back in the classroom and I am so happy for her! I know she is a great teacher and her school district is so lucky to have her!
In reflection, I have to chuckle and remind myself of the humor associated with a doctorate degree. I am reminded why a Ph.D. is a terminal degree – it either means “the end” or it kills you. I guess I’ll just go with “Piled Higher and Deeper” because that’s sort of how I feel after talking on and on about my four areas this morning, hee hee! Seriously, it feels wonderful to be an “ABD” (OK, not real lingo, just something we joke about – that stands for “All But Dissertation”).
What’s next with wrapping up the degree? I have some modifications to make on Chapters 1 & 3, I need to ask three Professors to serve on my dissertation committee, and then we need to have our first meeting. It’s expected, once I receive the OK from the IRB, I’ll conduct my research this fall, analyze the data in the winter, write my final two chapters in the spring, and have my oral defense. Graduation should be in “the shoe” in June. I am incredibly grateful and filled with elation! Thank you dear Lord! Thank you sweet Prayer Warriors!
What's next on a personal level? (Shayne will choke and be in shock reading this, but....) I want to run a 5K. (OK, jog a 5K.) I've been trying to jog every day for the past four weeks. It's not been pleasant, but I know it's best for my health. And I want to write that "Christi Book". I've been thinking about it this summer. I don't want it to be a rehashing of her story in a descriptive format - her website has told that. I don't know if I want third person narrative, or to use things from her diaries and tell it from her voice. There are many things to think about and a lot of work ahead, but I think it'd be a very special tribute to her and would help with my healing. OK, and I know, I know, I also have to order that grave marker I keep saying I need to do next quarter, next quarter. It's just so "final" - yuck!
I apologize for the lateness of this update. I know I jokingly told my friends if there was no update then I threw myself in front of a bus on High Street, but we just got home.
There will be no blogging for me tomorrow; tomorrow Shayla and I are partying like Rock Stars! Then I start back to work on Friday – yikes! What happened to summer? (Smile.)
With gratitude and appreciation,
Angela Thomas, A.B.D. (Just Joking) make that Ph.D. CANDIDATE! (Wow! I cannot believe it!)