Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang

Hi Friends,

I have a new book to tell you about this week: Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang.  Here's a bit about it:

Bees In The Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang

A note from Maureen:

I always say whatever book I'm working on is my favorite, but even though I'm on to a new project I readily admit having had special fun with Bees In The Butterfly Garden.

First, it's set in New York City's Gilded Age—a time easy to romanticize if you stick to those who gilded the era. Lots of wealth to be found amid a developing brand of American aristocracy . . . a world in which a thief's daughter never should have been invited.

That's right, my heroine Meg is the daughter of thief. Only Meg never knew that her father has been a thief since she was a bit older than a toddler, after the death of her mother. He protected her from the truth by sending her to be raised at an exclusive New England school for girls. Living among the rich, trained to be a lady, Meg nonetheless missed the one thing she's never had in her life: a father's love. Little did she know he loved her in the only way he knew how, by shielding her from himself.

So when he dies and his young and handsome protege tries—but fails—to keep the truth hidden from her, she is enraged but determined to prove her father wrong for having barred her from his life.

Although her father had asked Ian, his young protege, to keep an eye on his daughter, Ian was told to do it from afar . . . The message was clear enough: Ian clearly isn't good enough for her. She's a lady and he's a thief, just like her father was.

Meg's determination to prove her father wrong inspires her to become just like him, even posthumously. And Ian is presented with one temptation he can't pass up: not only working with the girl he's secretly loved since he was a boy—but through her gaining access to some of Fifth Avenue's wealthiest residents.

Who will catch them first? The Law . . . or God?

Not only was this book a lot of fun to write, it reminded me of the depth and availability of God's grace. Enough grace to cover a multitude of sins.

Early reviews for Bees In the Butterfly Garden:

Library Journal:
This character-driven historical set in the American Gilded Age represents Lang (Look to the East; Whisper on the Wind) at her best. 

Romantic Times
4 Stars
“Lang’s talent shines through in this first of the Gilded Legacy series. She clearly depicts the difference between grace – an undeserved gift – and mercy – when one is spared a deserved punishment. The grandeur of the era is evident in the story, the charming characters, the beautifully descriptive prose and even the cover!”  - Leslie L. McKee, RT Book Reviews,  July 2012

Special Bonus Recipe

The fictitious school in Bees In The Butterfly Garden is "Madame Marisse's School For Girls." My heroine, Meg, would have received a special cookie recipe awarded to each graduate, meant to be given to whatever staff the wealthy heiresses would oversee. Although this recipe doesn't appear in the book, this is what I imagine it might have been:

Madame Marisse's Morsels

1/2 Cup Oleo*
1/2 Cup butter
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Egg
1 1/2 teaspoons extract of Almond
1 teaspoon extract of Vanilla
1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Using a teaspoon, shape 1 inch sized balls and place on baking sheet. Press lightly with thumb.
Bake in 375 degree oven for 9 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom.
Dust with more powdered sugar if desired.

*Note from Madame Marisse: although Oleo will be hard for your staff to find, especially without the added unpalatable pink coloring that competing butter manufactures demand must be added, it is well worth the extra tax if your staff can acquire it. If they cannot find Oleo, they may use Lard instead. An entire Cup of butter is discouraged; using half Oleo or Lard along with flavorful butter will allow your cookies to maintain a softer consistency and not entirely flatten.

Note from Maureen Lang: Oleo is margarine and we no longer have any trouble finding it—or any added taxes or coloring other than yellow to make it look like butter. Oleo (margarine) or lard really does provide cookies with a softer consistency than using all butter.


About Maureen:
Maureen Lang is a reader who figured out at a very young age how to write what she wants to read. She penned her first novel at age ten, and has been writing ever since. In fact, she’d rather be writing or reading than doing just about anything else—but with a family and a dog depending on her for breakfast, lunch and dinner, she feels like she’s in the kitchen more often than at her desk or in her favorite chair with a book. Maureen is the author of a dozen books and has been nominated for a Christy, Rita and Carol. She’s won a Holt Medallion and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, but none of that compare to the day her daughter told her she was a good writer. Ah, recognition at home is rare indeed. Visit Maureen on the web at www.maureenlang.com

Bees In The Butterfly Garden can be purchased wherever fine books are sold, or online at: 

Barnes and Noble:

Christian Book Distributors

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Got Worries? Read This!

Hi Friends,

Well, the funniest thing happened to me today.  This week Jordyn has decided no more spoon feeding for her - she will feed herself, thank you very much, and wants nothing to do with the nice ground up, healthy, food that mommy prepares.  And that means three Cheerios and two sips of milk is enough.  It is apparently all she needs.  Alas!  

So yesterday, there I was with her lovely fruit-and-chicken-breakfast filled spoon all ready for her as she pushed the spoon away, clamped her lips shut, and refused a single bite.  Ditto for this morning.  I begged, I pleaded, I cried ... I worried.  She's a tiny little thing anyway, how will she survive this new turn of events??!!

Then, I happened upon this devotion that I wrote over ten years ago when Bethany was just Jordyn's age.  Hmmm ... I think God is trying to tell me something.  

And maybe he'll use this old devotion to tell you something too -- maybe not about feeding a baby, but perhaps there's something that's worrying you.  If so, read on . . .

…do not worry about tomorrow. (Matthew 6:34)
I PUSHED THE CUP CLOSER to my one-year-old daughter and looked her in the eye. “Come on, sweetheart, you’ve got to eat something!” She glared at me, then answered, “Waaaaa!!” A moment later, she picked up the zippy cup and threw it on the floor. I put my head in my hands and fought back the tears. 
That’s how my husband found me. “What’s wrong?” he asked. 
“Sh-she won’t eat, so she’s going to get dehydrated, and we’ll have to take her to the hospital, and she’ll d-d-die…” my voice trailed off in sob.
“You think that because she’s refused her bottle today she’s going to drop dead tomorrow?”
I sniffed and didn’t answer. It sounded ridiculous when he said it that way, but really, that was what I was afraid of . . . what might happen tomorrow.
You see, I’m an expert worrier. I can take today’s small troubles and project them so far into the future that they become huge disasters. And as my fears loom large, I find it much more difficult to trust God. His care and His love are hard to see out there in my fuzzy tomorrows. 
But Christ tells me to not even project my worries a single day into the future. I need only concern myself with today’s troubles, rather than all the disasters that may never be. And in my “today,” it’s much easier to see His love.  Even when the baby throws her sippy cup across the room.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Hair Incident ... and What I Learned

Hi Friends,

Well, it's happened again.  Seems to be a tradition in the Schalesky household that when you turn 3 1/2 to 4 years old you simply must find a pair of hidden scissors (this time, left out by older sister ... the same sister who was our very first perpetrator) and cut your own hair.  Here's Jayden with his Mommy-fixed-after-he-cut-it-himself hair.  I must say, the fix is so much easier for boys!  

Meanwhile, however, I've been reminded of what I learned the first time this happened in our household ... when Bethany was just four and she found a pair of scissors.  It happened like this:

The Hair Incident
The silence should have warned me. My loud, rambunctious 4-year-old sitting quietly on the floor playing? Something wasn’t right. But I ignored the signs and kept working at my computer.

I discovered my mistake a few minutes later when Bethany peeked around the corner of my desk. “Hi Mommy.”

I stopped typing and glanced around. “Hi sweet--” The words died on my lips. A hunk of hair five inches shorter than the rest swung from her shoulder. “WHAT did you do?!”

Bethany’s eyes rounded.

I drew a deep breath and lowered myself back into my chair. “Come here.”

Bethany edged around the corner.

I raised my hand and waggled my fingers.

Slowly, she lifted her arm. A pair of blunt-nosed scissors hung from her fingertips.

For a moment I looked into her eyes, now pooling with unshed tears. Then, I sighed and pulled her onto my lap. “Oh Bethany, you know better than to take the scissors to your hair.” I ran my hands over her once-beautiful, long curls. Strands of blond came loose in my fingers, revealing three missing chunks.

“But I wanted . . .”

“It doesn’t matter what you wanted.”

Her lip quivered. “I didn’t know.”

My eyebrows shot up.

Bethany looked away. Her voice wavered. “You never said I shouldn’t.”

I cleared my throat. “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

“You can’t fix it?” Big tears slipped down her cheek. A few seconds more, and I’d be crying too. But instead, I gathered her up, took her into her room, and laid her down for a nap. Then, I returned to the scene of the crime.

I surveyed the floor where she’d been playing, then the chair, and the toy trunk. Nothing. No sign of hair. I frowned and got down on my hands and knees. Nothing under the chair, or the rug. My eyes swept to the inch and a half gap between the floor and the bottom of the trunk. Ah, there they were.

I reached beneath and pulled out three long chunks of hair. Then, I sat cross-legged on the floor and twirled the strands around my finger. She didn’t know, huh? Didn’t realize that cutting her hair was wrong? Then why hide the evidence? Why so carefully tuck it beneath the trunk?

In one way, she was right. I hadn’t specifically told her not to cut her hair. But I had told her the scissors were only for paper, and she could use them only when Mommy was helping her.

I stood and laid the hairs flat on my desk. The golden strands glowed in the light. Bethany had lost something valuable, something beautiful today, not because she didn’t know better, but because, in the end, “want” overcame wisdom. I know, because sometimes I do the same thing.

In Jeremiah 31:33 (NIV) God said of Israel, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” What that tells me is that as I study God’s Word I learn more than just the words on the page. I learn to see the things of life as God sees them, to think, feel, and understand at a deeper level. And yet sometimes it seems easier to silence the voice of truth within and make excuses or justifications to get what I want. A little lie won’t matter, I may tell myself. No one will know. It doesn’t matter. God hasn’t specifically said that I shouldn’t. And so I snip away at the golden hairs and stuff them carefully away so no one will see. Is that how I want to live? No way!

So, later, as I placed Bethany’s hair in a baggie for her baby book, I prayed that from now on when the voice of truth whispers within, I would remember the hair incident. And I prayed for both of us that want would no longer overcome wisdom. That neither of us would snip away another golden strand.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Finding God When Life is Crazy

Hi Friends,

As life gets crazier and crazier, I think I know what God is trying to say to me:

A tough thing to do! So, as I was contemplating this mystery of worship in the wildness, contentment in the chaos, of peace in the whirlwind, I remembered this story from when Jayden was a baby (and when we only had 5 kids instead of 6).  I learned something on then that I need to remember now and put into practice even more.  This story was a reminder and encouragement from God this morning to me.  I hope it will encourage you too!  

So, if you're life isn't all peaceful meadows and quiet moments of loveliness, read on:

Everyone says God is found in silence. I’ve discovered that sometimes he’s in the chaos too. For me, that’s a good thing, because with five little kids, chaos is plentiful at my house. 

It was especially so one Friday afternoon not too long ago. Disasters abounded. One kid had tumbled down the stairs and clunked her head earlier that day, then she skinned her knees on the pavement, another fell off her bike and broke the fall with her face (good thing two of her teeth had already fallen out the night before), the other wet her pants, twice, and the oldest needed help with some tangles in her hair. Meanwhile, the dryer had just buzzed, the phone was ringing, and my parents were coming for the weekend, so I really needed to clean house and make the bed they’d be sleeping in. 

I finished feeding the baby, then plopped him into his playpen with his toys. Next, I went about doing all the things a mom has to do – kisses and bandages, dishes and laundry, bills and hair brushing, picking up messages (I never did get to the phone in time to answer it), making beds, and rubbing antibiotic ointment on a variety of “owies.” 

Meanwhile, the baby chewed his rubber duckie, rattled his toy rattle, squeaked his bear, and pushed the button to make his stuffed dog sing the ABC song. As I passed by his playpen once, twice, three times, I began to notice something. Every time he caught a glimpse of me, he looked up, grinned, clapped his hands and raised his arms.

The third time he did it, I had to stop, because something about his actions reminded me of God, reminded me of worship, of clapping to a song, of raising my hands in praise. 

Baby Jayden was in his little playpen world, busy with his little baby toys. And yet, he was watching too, waiting, eager for a glimpse of the one who loved him, provided for his needs, and kept him safe. He wasn’t too busy to keep watch, and when he saw me, to giggle and raise his hands. 

I paused and picked him up. 

He laughed and clapped his hands some more. 

That was when I knew I needed to be a lot more like him. In the midst of all my busyness, I needed to also keep watch for the One who provides, protects, and loves. I needed to keep an eye out for God working around me. Only that would make me happy enough to clap my hands and raise my arms. Folded laundry, bandaged owies, a vacuumed floor – all were necessary, but none filled my heart with delight. If I wanted to be as happy as baby Jayden, I needed to put myself in a position to see God’s glory, whenever he passed by. I needed to be like Moses in Exodus 33:18-23 (NIV): 

“Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’ And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence …’ Then the LORD said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back… ’” 

All Moses wanted was God’s presence, was a glimpse of his glory. And God put him in a position to see just that, much like I’d placed Jayden in the playpen where he could see me too. But both Moses and Jayden had to watch. 

And just like them, I had to learn to watch too, to pay attention to what God might be doing when I'm in my little playpen-world, with my toys and trials, tears and limitations. No matter what I’m doing, how much chaos surrounds me, how many boo-boo’s need bandaging, I need to still be watching for God to pass by. And when I spy Him, I can throw up my hands, grin, and giggle with delight, because nothing makes me happier than catching a glimpse of God at work around me. 

And that’s what I hope I'll remember when the next disaster occurs.