My friend Ashlee reminded me that today began one of the craziest weeks of my life—so far. Those last two words leave room for more wild times, and why not? It’s easy for her to remember my crazy week as it is also around the birth of her first born.
As I think about that week so many years ago I shake my head and laugh, not at the amount I did or how over the top any particular happening was but the crazy sheer variety of it all!
It started eight years ago
I took a group of students to Costa Rica on a school trip. The trip itself was an epic adventure. The senior students and I spent a week exploring this gorgeous country, meeting people and laughing. So much laughing.
On the last night our tour guide took us to a teen friendly dance club made for students from abroad. It was on a hill that overlooked the lights of San Jose! So absolutely gorgeous—the twinkling magic of the city nightscape was a perfect backdrop. I herded the teens together over the noise of the dance music. Honestly, though, have you tried getting a group of teens to do something? The same thing? At the same time—Yeah? Then you know it’s pretty much like herding cats. In case you have not tried to herd cats let me just say that it too is challenging. I finally got them all to stand near the rail, in a row. The music was loud and I was hollering directions. “Closer!” “Smile!” Yet, they were were talking over me, pointing and insisting. Using my teacher voice I yelled “STOP!?” The dozen of them stop at the same time. “WHAT?!? I yelled over the music.
As if they were in some bizarre musical choreography they all pointed and yelled “Fire!” Yes. They said fire at the same time. I turned in the direction they were pointing and sure enough there was a fire on a table in the club. I turned on my heels—my high heels actually—my strappy wedge heels—and my little black dress, and ran as fast as I could straight to the fire. Behind me came my young travelers all in a row. If I wasn’t in a panic to get to the fire I would have started laughing at the image of us Canadian Keystone Cops. I grabbed the denim jacket that was fully alight and started smacking it on the ground repeatedly until it was a smoldering hole of fabric and the fire was out. The youth stood by, wide eyed, stunned. I looked back at them. “What?” The group started laughing—likely at the sight of me acting like a lunatic. But seriously no one wanted to read the headline 20 Die in Fire in San Jose: Among them 12 Canadian Teens. I joined in the belly laugh, processing what they just witnessed. “Oh my God, Ms. Counios! You’re not only a doula you’re a fire fighter!” Yes and I may also be a bit of a lunatic. I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard.
A young woman from another group couldn’t control her urge when Get Lucky by Daft Punk started. She tossed her jacket dramatically on her table not registering that there was a candle on it and she danced off. How do I know? She appeared as I was holding up the jacket looking through the hole.
We flew home the next day.
Jet lag from Central America isn’t very epic. Thank goodness. I spent Sunday unpacking. In the late afternoon I got a message from a friend who was in labour at the hospital. She reached out. Although I hadn’t officially taken the job of being her doula I felt her stress and need for support. I showed up at the hospital. She looked exhausted. Her husband looked equally tired. I sent him home for a rest and I spent the night distracting her, helping her through contractions, supporting her through an epidural, getting her ice chips and at one point eating an apple too loudly. We still laugh about that crunchy apple. Her husband came back and I slipped away to shower and pick up some food for him. By morning the verdict was an emergency C-section.
She went in around 6:00 am and was out a little before 8:00 am. She gave birth to a beautiful healthy boy. I called the school to let them know I was going to be late. Sure enough I wheeled in 10 minutes after the bell, which was completely reasonable if you ask me! Students were quiet at there desks with a supervising teacher covering the class until I arrived.
My vice principal saw me walk across the commons. He called me in to his office to question me—in that tone that admin sometimes have. However, once he found out I was in labour and delivery most of the night his tone changed completely. He softened.
The problem or blessing with traveling is that I feel I must treat those visiting as I am treated when I travel. I had a friend come to town for three days on a business trip. I had promised them my time. We met with their only other friends from Regina at Bushwakkers pub, talking and laughing over a mountain portion of nachos. We stayed out way too late. I remember those people who would wave a hand and say to me “I’ll sleep when you leave” so certain that having a great memory is so much better than a few extra zzz’s. Those people are right. So, I sucked it up. As I dropped my friend off they promptly reminded me that we were also hanging out on Wednesday. Mental calculations were getting creative for nap time.
I’m Greek. If you ask any Greek they might tell you that the Turks are not our friends. I’m going to disagree. I have met too many Turkish people who were so kind, willing, gentle. So, when I was invited to a formal Turkish dinner at the Hotel Saskatchewan by a student I had to say yes. Her father had purchased a table and asked her to extend the invitation. I came home after work, dressed, formally and picked up my date, Tracy. We attended a formal supper with dignitaries, talks from political organizations, government officials, and artistic performances. The women at the table bonded with me through food and experience as so many things cross over culturally between Greece and Turkey. It was a pleasure. I was grateful—and tired.
As promised I met with my friend. This evening was a more quiet catch up. Unfortunately their work kept them later and so our entire evening was also pushed back—which meant so was my bed time. I shot an espresso and carried on. I picked a local restaurant and we sat and shared a more intimate back and forth then the previous night getting caught up on our lives until the waiter informed us that the restaurant was closing. Holy hell, what time was it! I think when I hit my automatic pilot button it got stuck! I hit the pillow hard that night.
Nothing happened. Thank goodness! I taught. I did everything a little slower as I hadn’t had a decent sleep since—I don’t know—Costa Rica? I stopped by new sweet mama’s home to see how things were going. I didn’t stay long because they needed their rest. Who am I kidding. I also needed my rest. At home I made my way to bed right after supper. I read for a short while. My eyelids were so heavy. I put the book away and rested my head on my comfortable pillow. Eyes closed easily and I exhaled the week thus far. Buzz. Buzz. My phone alerted. I had a text. I read. It was a student in crisis. She was in my homeroom group and was feeling threatened by another student in our class. She shared the messages. I asked her if she wanted me to intervene and she said yes. I promised her that I would take care of it first thing the next morning. I told her not to worry and she thanked me.
I got to work and open my door. I put coat down and set my travel mug beside the sink on the counter. It was as if my travel mug hit a button. Screaming started in the hallway outside my classroom. Simultaneously my pocket started buzzing. I didn’t think. I just ran (Do you see a theme here?) towards the sounds of chaos. And sure enough I found two girls going at it Jerry Springer style. Screaming, swearing and swinging. A third (the one who messaged me) stood off almost crying and a forth yelled obscenities. The tallest and most intense teen got knocked to the ground. Her body going one way and her weave another. I jumped in between them but it was wild. I stood strong. Yeah, all 5’3″ of me and somehow I managed to get one of the girls against the locker while she screamed threats. I kept reminding her to be quiet. Threats were not helpful to her case. Did I mention she was an Amazon of a child? Well, she was—probably still is. Fortunately the head maintenance guy stuck is head out to see what all the commotion was. “Rodney! Help!” I screamed trying to keep this angry kid in one spot. It was like the dam was ready to blow. He came along and scooped her up. The other two went to the office willingly. I’m not sure what happened to the forth. I made a statement with the police. The rest of the day was quiet. I appreciated the kind subdued vibe in my classes. I slept like the dead.
Today I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. It had been on my calendar for a long while and I new it was coming. I was okay with it because I really just needed to do something physical. After the week I had I wanted to get out of my head and get into my body. Yeah, I could prep a floor, or hang a door. Yeah. That amount of physical labour was about perfect. Besides my whole left side was stiff from holding an angry teen at bay. I pulled up to the address. A quiet fuck rolled off my tongue. We were framing a house. A. Whole. House. This was not what I wanted. This was too much physical work. Did I mention that there was still snow on the ground too? Complaints aside I put on my steel toed boots and a good attitude and helped frame that house.
I couldn’t straighten my arms. My whole body was done but here’s the kicker I was happy and sort of amazed with myself. This past week I put out a fire, got a bunch of teens home safely from an international trip, helped a friend in labour, spent time socializing, fraternized with the so called enemy (not at all) broke up a fight and framed a house. This is not a list for the faint of heart. Oh and I was also going to work every day and doing the usual.
Man! I’m tired just rereading this! Wow. But, I did it. I said yes to everything. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new or learn something new about myself, where my edges are and what I am capable of.
I haven’t had a week like that since but I also keep the metaphorical door open for opportunities, for doing the right thing as best I can and for finding the humor in all the weirdness of this wacky wild world. And, coffee helps!