Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Choosing "the better part..."

It was late, Pope Gregory the Great tells us. Benedict and his twin sister, Scholastica, had spent the day together. It was their one day - an annual visit at a meeting place between their respective monasteries. Benedict took note of the hour and prepared to leave. Scholastica asked him to stay. She wanted more time with her brother - she wanted to talk about the goodness of GOD all through the night. Benedict didn't get it. He didn't understand - couldn't place her need above The Rule. He made the choice he thought was best for both of them. It was time to say goodbye. Benedict's "no" meant trying a new strategy. Scholastica began to weep and lay her head on the table to pray. Suddenly, the skies opened up and a thunderstorm erupted overhead. Benedict looked at his sister and said, "Woman, what have you done?" We are told that GOD said "yes" to her prayer because her love was greater. Benedict remained with his sister that night and shortly after he returned home, word came of Scholastica's death.

I love this story. Most Benedictine women do. It is read every year on this day - the Feast of Saint Scholastica. The gospel proclaimed for this feast is the story of Martha and Mary - two very different sisters. Martha's complaint against Mary is well known to us. She wanted help in the kitchen. The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

Saint Benedict wasn't "wrong." Martha wasn't just whining. But Scholastica and Mary made different choices - better choices. And those choices defined their searching. I've made some poor choices in my search for GOD. I am learning that it's never too late to make better choices - to set my heart on the higher things, to choose the Love that will set me free. It's the work of my lifetime. When I die I hope some of my better choices will shine and move GOD's heart - like Scholastica's tears. That hope - this desire - gives me joy today.

Happy feast...and love to you all,

- Sister Vicki

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Worse than frogs, hail or locusts...

WARNING: The following blog contains factual information with an "ick"-factor of 7.5 or 8 on a scale of 1-10.
It happened Friday morning. It was 6 AM and we had late-sleep because of the blizzard. I was the only one up. I decided to do some research. It had been five days since I left Amherst. I noticed some spider bites on my hands and face. I thought perhaps a little one had spun his way into my bed. I didn't know anything about spider bites, so I went on-line and looked up insect bites. By 6:30 I was in an absolute panic. The pattern of the bites indicated a reality my mind could not quite grasp. Three little puncture wounds in a straight line, within one week of a motel stay means just one thing - BED BUGS. Yup. I can barely write the words without itching. I ran to my room and stripped the bed linens right down to the mattress and box spring. I put everything though the hot water cycle before the others sisters woke. Before we gathered for Morning Prayer, I had to tell them that we had bed bugs. They were just wonderful. We called the exterminator straight away and they came within hours. The early diagnosis meant that my bedroom was the only "crime scene." And, as the only "victim", I had to remove every item of clothing from my closet and dresser and run them through the hot water cycle as well. Sister Connie helped me. It took two days! The room, mattress, box spring and chair were treated and steamed. The room has been closed off until the SECOND bug treatment next Monday. Until then, I am sleeping in a small bedroom on the second floor. The bites on my arms, hands, face and neck, (50 at last count) have begun to heal. The itching has gone way down and they are much less visible. I spend two nights in a very clean, comfortable motel and became an "all-you-can-eat" buffet for a hungry mob of blood-sucking bugs. (I know GOD created these creatures for a purpose, but right now I am out of mercy and forgiveness."

I spoke with the manager of the motel chain. She went up to room #218, turned over the mattress and discovered an infestation. It will take them three months to complete the treatment. I was impressed with her honesty, her willingness to apologize and her desire to keep this from happening to another guest.

I am, now, an expert on bed bugs. The exterminator was quite impressed with what I learned in 30 minutes on the Internet. First, bed bugs have nothing to do with a place being clean or dirty. They have resurfaced the US in the last three years because of international travel. The come in luggage from countries where they are not controlled. They can hop a ride on clothing, too. When they bite you, you normally won't feel it. You'll sleep right through the attack and notice tiny punctures that will grow to be nickel-sized welts. Most bed bugs don't carry disease., though there are exceptions. They are basically vampires. It's your warmth and your blood they seek. They conceal themselves in the daylight - usually in the box spring or in the crevices of the mattress. They are smart bugs. They learn your sleep pattern quickly. And after a hearty meal at your expense, they have babies and rest for a few days. If you think you've been attacked by bed bugs, CALL A PROFESSIONAL ASAP. Don't try to by a chemical treatment from a grocery store. These suckers (pun intended) are smart, small and fertile! Fortunately, we made the connection early - even before all of the bites became visible.

Now, if you made through this blog, give yourself a pat on the back. I wasn't going to tell anyone but my prioress. Then, after a few days of Cortisone cream and crying periodically, I decided that telling this tale might help someone else. Here is the bottom line. You cannot necessarily see these bugs when you check in. If you stay in hotels/motels frequently, it doesn't matter how upscale the chain. A room can be totally clean and even luxurious, an have an infestation. When you have slept in a motel, the minute you get home, empty the suitcase and your clothing right into the washer and turn it on "hot." Wash out your suitcase with Lysol or VERY hot water. Then, if you've inadvertently brought home "company," they will meet their Maker somewhere close to the spin cycle. May you never have to go through what we've been through this weekend. I pray for those who live in countries where these creatures have free reign and for those who cannot afford the necessary treatment.

Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki