October 22, 2012

It’s been a ridiculously bad year.  For fleas, that is.  Something about the summer being so hot with little rain, blah blah blah, I didn’t really listen because all I could see is the wretched fleas biting my ankles and hitching rides on my dog into my house. 

So we’ve treated.  EVERYTHING!! (Which costs an arm and a leg, mind you)  Again and again, and then again and again.  I’m itchy just thinking about it all.  Thank God fleas can’t live on humans and aren’t like head lice or chiggers or any of those nasty parasitic burrowing buggers that need to be surgically or chemically removed from your body. 

One day, about 2 weeks into the ‘Great flea infestation of 2012’ (which hasn’t ended, mind you), I got angry.  We would find a bug or two and we’d treat the whole house as best we can.  Then we’d see nothing for a day or two and think, “are they gone?” and the next day we’d find two more, and the whole process would start over.  I couldn’t take it anymore, I’d had enough.  I blew up at my husband, at God, I cried, kicked and screamed, raged against the jumping critters and then settled nicely into a little blue funk. “I hate this, why us?” 

When the words of a very wise woman appeared before me:

“Why don’t you face the reality of identifications with the poor, which is so much at the heart of the spirit of Madonna House and its foundress – a simple reality of cockroaches, bedbugs, and other unpleasant insects?  Many of you might not have them, but some may.  You, of course, are privileged in that you may buy things to kill them.  This you should do for the sake of health and cleanliness.  But perhaps some time you will have to live in such quarters where you will just have to endure these things.  The poor have to live in places where the whole house and neighbourhood are infested with rats, mice, and other things which cannot be eliminated.  How far does your identification go?”
~Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, Dearly Beloved Volume 1, pg 137

She got my attention, that’s for sure.  I’m one of the privileged ones.

My brother and sister-in-law had a major infestation last year due to a couple cats that didn’t belong to them (hence they could not give them away).  My SIL had major allergic reactions to the flea-bites – significant swelling and itching - and they could do nothing about the problem except continue on with their feeble attempts to de-flea their home.  We have nothing like that suffering, and yet I complain.  I complain because they’re in my home and they’re annoying.  I complain because I catch a glimpse of 1 here and there, and silently castigate God for creating these beasts of the insect world.  I consistently (and maybe consciously) forget about my brothers and sisters around the world who suffer greatly from insects and vermin, from which they will never be free. 

I’m hoping that our infestation will be short-lived.  We’ll try to keep up our vigilance, continuing to purchase products to kill the fleas and hopefully, we will eventually triumph.  I now thank God for fleas while adding the prayer, “keep them out of our house”.  I also thank God for Borax, flea spray, flea powder, flea collars and vacuum cleaners.  My grandmother once told me the story of when she and her family lived in a work camp during the war.  She said the bugs were intolerable, and the tent walls were “moving with insects” every morning when she would get up (Ugh!).  Yet every morning she would calmly take a can of kerosene and douse the walls of the tent in an attempt to kill the bugs, and then go on with her daily duties.  This is what I will do (except not with kerosene).  Put my best effort forward to remove the “unwanteds” and I will do it in solidarity with all the poor of this world, while praying for those who not only have to deal with fleas, but with every manner of degradation. 

“Consider it pure joy then, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”  James 1:2-4


  1. Sorry about your infestation, I know that it must be difficult. You mentioned that your grandmother had to deal with these bugs while they were in the work camps, which reminds me of the story of Corrie Ten Boom, "The Hiding Place." They had lice in the camps, and it was very difficult and painful. They would thank God for the bugs, however, since because of the lice the guards would not enter their barracks and, thus, they were spared some of the tortures. On EWTN once there was a Priest who said that when he got to heaven he had one question for God, why did God create potato bugs... I would love to know about lice, fleas, and mosquitoes:).

    God bless,

  2. Like Frances, I thought (immediately) of "The Hiding Place." I love your perspective, Sarah, and thank you for sharing it: "count it pure joy..." I can find that so hard to do!

    1. You know, it's funny you both should mention the Corrie Ten Boom story, because it is always in my mind when I'm vacuuming up these insects. I try so hard to be thankful to God - because you know, this is the cleanest and most vacuumed my house has ever been. There are always little blessings to be found in these trials.

  3. Funny, because sammy has never had fleas which is a tremendous blessing as my childhood was plagued by fleas and i learned to pray (no joke) by petitioning God for years to "get rid of the fleas". And I mean years. My parents fumigated, collared, powdered, bathed their pocketbooks dry and I just felt gross, itchy and poor. So, I prayed and, lo and behold, some medication was invented and we got rid of the fleas. My parents still insist that the invention of the flea medication was a direct answer to their middle daughter's prayers. That said, have you tried the vet and the medication route?

    1. You know Elena, Eowyn's never had fleas before either. We were really lucky - and I have no doubt that your prayers were answered. My mom tells a story about the first night they spent in the house they now live in. She closed the bathroom door and found a cockroach. From that moment on she prayed "thank you God for cockroaches, but keep them out of my house" and she didn't find another one since. And they've been there for 20 years now.
      And we haven't taken the vet route yet. Seems like the fleas on the dog have cleared up fine. Now it's just the house that we have to work at.

  4. Isn't it fun to think that this infestation is, in some way, part of God's plan for you? He is using even this to bring about your sanctification or to work good in someone else's life. I wonder what this will look like once you can see it from the comfort of heaven.

    1. Ha - there are a whole lot of things I'd like to see from the vantage point of heaven.

    2. Some insects are nice. The ladybug, firefly, green lacewing, moths, butterflies,and others are interesting and even pretty. Some people keep tarantulas as pets. Actually, spiders are not insects.

      Some of the dangerous creepy crawlies are scorpions and big thousand leggers. I never did like centipedes.

  5. BUGS: I know that you can't love me because I'm ugly, but I don't bite. It's OK to abhor me, so don't adore me; that's all right. When you call the bug man, he'll come in his van, and I'll run and hide. If by chance he sprays me it won't faze me; I'll just say goodbye. I'll go live elsewhere; I know you won't care--I'm out of sight. Just remember in September I'll be back at night!

    Sincerely, MilliePeed



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