My Funny Valentine

It’s an honor to publish the following article, written by Shawna Horn, pastor and friend.  You can visit Shawna’s website at

My Funny Valentine

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  And we did the typical family Valentine’s day things.  The kids each got a small box of chocolates.  They each made their own heart-shaped pizza.  Our third child, upon finishing his pizza, took one final piece of pepperoni and ripped it in half.

“It’s like half a piece of pepperoni, like my half heart,” he said.

My heart sank a little bit. We spent the rest of the evening playing games, trying to distract from all the hearts.




There are a lot of reasons to struggle with Valentine’s Day. I get it.  For those who have not yet found their ‘valentine,’ for those who have lost their ‘valentine,’ for those who have broken relationships, Valentine’s Day is simply a reminder of the heartbreak in the world.

For my 8 year old, Valentine’s day is a constant reminder of his heart condition.  Everywhere he looks he sees hearts.  And it reminds him that he only has half of a heart.  Born with tricuspid atresia, his heart only developed two chambers, instead of four.  He has endured three major open heart surgeries by the time he was 3 and a 1/2 .

So Valentine’s Day, a day full of love and hearts, is a very real reminder of his mortality.

I can never know what it’s like to be a child and have to face my mortality on a regular basis.  It doesn’t seem fair, when you consider what is fair in the world.  It doesn’t seem fair in the world that children suffer at all.

And this is the journey of Lent.  It is the journey to both embrace our mortality and proclaim our hope of a better way.  It is embracing the fragility of life and at the same time recognizing that this world is the not the world that God intended.  It is about understanding that by becoming human, God was able to walk in our pain and overcome its finality.

It feels odd to have Valentine’s day during lent, but there is also something very poetic about it.  In a time where we reflect on the pain in our own lives, it is an invitation to consider the people around you.

It is an invitation to love others in the midst of their suffering.

This week as a Lenten practice, take some time to consider what it is to see someone else’s pain and then what it is to love them through it.




Elizabeth Stoufis

They say if you look into someone’s eyes

You can see their soul

Their hopes

But a mother’s soul
is made of love
of compassion for her children

They say if you look at someone’s hands
You can see all the labor they have done
All of the wrinkles in a person’s palm
Are to show all of their hard work
But a mother’s hands work hardest of all
They are made to care for her children
For their whole childhoods

They say if you look at someone’s feet
You can see all the places they have gone
All of the journeys they have traveled
How they stand in the world
How grounded they are
But a mother’s feet stand as strong as can be
She stands for what she believes in for her kids
Even if she is standing alone

Becasue she loves looking at the travel book with me
when I am sick
501 Places to Go and wishing we could go to all of them

She is very stubborn in her ideas
And it is very hard to change her mind

Sky blue afternoons taking walks in the park
Baking baklava
Painting the phyllo like an artist painting on a canvas
Camping with the smell of the fire
And the whisper of the wilderness

This mother is my mama
And I love her very much.

Suck it up Buttercup!

I just read yet another article, poetically drumming on about messy floors, crayon marks, spit up and puke, sleep-deprivation, clueless hubbies, wider waistbands, shirts stained with breastmilk, selflessness, whaa-whaa-whaa, and then the last three lines a sudden revelation cleverly placed to bring it all together, that motherhood is the best and the author wouldn’t change it for the world.  Hey whiny mommies, suck it up, buttercups!  Do you want to really know why I can’t stand mom clubs and groups?  I’m freaking bored out of my mind!

I’ve three kids, two of them are teens and the sweetest little first grader. Here’s the thing, your little tot of preciousness will grow and evolve into a screaming hyper-emotional teen who isn’t remotely cute anymore. If I could turn around and return to younger self, even ten years prior, I’d right all my mistakes and postpone bedtime two hours later, and be who I’m becoming now. I’d relish every second and gather my sweet babies and never let go. You’ve no idea what’s in store, the battles, control struggles, high and low self-esteem that’s always your fault. You’ll not even see straight enough to tell if there’s food on the floor or the dizzying stench emanating from your teen’s room. You’re still beautiful and safe and all that your littles know-just wait till they hate you. Fear? Oh, I won’t even begin to broach that subject; when you’ve no control and send your kiddo out,praying you’ve taught them enough.


I’m so over the complaints of endless laundry and time-out discussions. I don’t want to suffer through twenty more minutes of my life, pretending to focus and commiserate on a long-winded tale of Andrew’s precociousness when what you’re waiting for is to hear what a genius your 24-month-old is, and by the way-he’s 2! I can’t always do math that fast in my head-37 months-what is that?!

Here’s the truth about your chronic complaining, NO ONE CARES but you and grandma!  Your kids are fighting? You’re sleep-deprived, over-worked, unappreciated, fighting with your bestie over working vs. stay-at-home, crying in your car because the bitty in front of you at Starbucks didn’t Pay it Forward, your hubby asked what you were doing all day yesterday while gazing down at the scattering of toys on the floor, the jerk in the mom group gave the ride-on firetruck to Jack while your little Ella had been patiently waiting, the neighbor’s kids are already on level II swimming, while yours begins wailing from the car that he won’t go, Annie can sing all of the lyrics to to any given Glee rerun, meanwhile, mulling over how your Sam hasn’t yet put a sentence together, while in your mom van, podcast droning, “You can be all you can be!”, headed back to your tidy home, cupboards filled with food to feed your entire subdivision, that shares florescent chemically-treated lawns.

We all want to be appreciated and admired, crave acceptance and want our kiddos to be smart and shining.  None of us can stand the kid who knocks out the rest and hogs all of the toys in the playgroup while her mom cleverly averts her gaze and discusses her latest vacation plans.

While at a school function, I came very close to joining in on a conversation with a neighbor mom.  I was beyond exhausted, had insomnia since 3:18, and felt too lazy to mutter even, hi.  I couldn’t have felt more grateful after witnessing their conversation.

Mom #1 What did you do last night?

Mom #2 We went to dinner.

Mom #3 Dinner? Oh, how was dinner?

Mom #1 Yeah, how was dinner?

Mom #2 Dinner was nice.

Moms #1 and #3 Great! Very nice.

I swear to God’s second cousin, that was their freaking conversation!  Not only that, they pronounced the word “dinner” more like “dinna”.  Directly after their dinna conversation, they began chiming in about all that needed done, finishing the basement, in-laws stopping by for two days along with some artificial condolences.

I’ve been there ladies.  I used to be involved in everything, desperately craving an intangible mom award, balancing grad school, dinner parties, birthday celebrations, and sad that my husband never appreciated me, regardless of his compliments, help with the kids and always glad to run to the grocery store, especially because he complained that I never had any good junk food in the house.

I remember carrying a giant clothesbasket up the stairs, stomping so hard that my knees ached, deliberately passing directly in front of Nikos (hubby) expecting him to look up from his stupid phone and somehow infuse compassion into his thick head, and the realization that his wife works sooo hard.  I picked up the broom and manically began sweeping, intentionally bonking his bent head with the handle. Nikos glanced up while rubbing his head and asked, “Are we expecting company tonight?”

 If you have the time to post ten selfies on Facebook so you can hope for 210 likes, or at least ten more than Shelby got, since you really can’t stand her, the big show-off.  Additionally, if you’re blogging about life with your youngins’ and it’s the hardest unpaid job there ever was, you aren’t so bad off.

A few years ago while still in WV, we stopped (Heaven forbid!) at McDonald’s.  We’d never dined inside as a family.  I settled Katerina into the highchair with rolling wheels.  It took two seconds for her to figure out how to propel off from the table and backwards.  We ate our fake food, and all was pleasant.  An employee came over and asked if Katerina would like some extra Happy Meal toys for toddlers.  We happily thanked her, and discussed the cold subzero temperature expected that evening.

 Katerina suddenly spilled her milk all over the tray, and the employee rushed over with a towel.  Nikos and I tried to help her and take over, but she wouldn’t allow it.  She was cheerful and friendly, a shining employee.  During our conversation I learned that she only had an hour left, and then her husband would work the night shift at Taco Bell.  They had four kids, two of which had severe autism, and lived in a trailer that her uncle had loaned them.  The furnace didn’t work, so they were forced to sleep in the living area nightly with the stove burners on high, as it was their only means of heat.  The woman was kind, gracious, cheerful and filled with more integrity than any woman I’d ever met.

On the drive home as I shivered till the heat worked in the car, tears fell from my cheeks.  I instructed Nikos to locate the space heater I’d bought him for Christmas to heat the garage, which he’s never taken out of the box, and give it to the woman at McDonald’s.  He dropped us off, grabbed the box with the heater and left.

Nikos stood in line until the woman made eye contact with him.  He pointed to the space heater box on the table we’d sat, nodded to her with tear-blurred eyes and left.

Your life isn’t so bad ladies.  Suck it up already!