How Uganda turned into France

written by Irina Gallagher

RouenThere was once a girl of 23 who felt a sudden urge to travel. It wasn’t that she was never interested in seeing the world before, but somehow, in some mysterious, overbearing way, the compulsion to dive into a far-flung location was all she could think about. It was that very summer, that the girl sent for a Ugandan visa, obtained a series of inoculations, paid a heaping amount of money to reserve a volunteer spot at a Ugandan animal rescue facility, and ended up going to France instead.

It was thanks to biology, really, that this trip took place at all. That yearning to explore ended up, which the girl later discovered, a call to sow the seeds of travel before a baby arrived nine months later. Uganda turned into France by sheer serendipity when the girl’s beloved uncle, who was a renowned physicist, invited his sister (the girl’s mother) to Rouen, France for a conference. The girl, feeling quite confused and unsure about her African adventures, invited herself along. Luckily, the mother and the uncle, welcomed her with open arms. Otherwise, there would be no story to tell.


A Dog’s Guide to Happiness

Written by Irina Gallagher

Magnificent Max

Next week, we will be celebrating our oldest kid’s birthday. Our magnificent dog Maximus is turning 11 years old. As part of his birthday festivities, I thought that it would be very appropriate to reflect on a few of the ever-so-many lessons on happiness which Max has taught us so far.

Proper greetings are important. You should always make sure that your friends know just how excited you are to see them. Greet your loved ones wholeheartedly. Smile with abandon. Tell them just how much their presence means to you. (You can skip the licking profusely part, that may be overkill).

Persistence is key. Never give up on your dreams. It doesn’t matter if these are bold conquests to climb mountainous peaks or simply staring down your opponent, ahem, or pal, into sharing a piece of that turkey sandwich.

There is never an amount too small to share. Seriously, just share that sandwich already. Even if it’s the last crumb, it’s the thought that counts. It’s not just about food of course, shared experiences always seem bring more enjoyment and their memories last longer when a friend is by your side.

A walk is always exciting. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold or a deluge of water is falling from the sky (just stay inside if there is lightning, please). A walk will always brighten your spirits.

Always be available if a friend needs a hug. We all know a person who can squeeze you so lovingly that all your worries subside. Be that guy.

Exercise patience as much as possible. If you are no longer able to be patient, simply walk away (eventually the guy grabbing your tail will tire and let go).

It’s always a good time for a nap. Naps are proven to reduce stress. We should all try to take naps frequently. (If only our 6-year-old could follow this advice).

Find excitement in the little things. No one shows as much unbridled enthusiasm as dogs. No wonder they are generally such happy creatures. They find happiness in such simple pleasures: a shared snack, going outside, coming back inside, a squirrel!, a bird!, a walk.

Love unconditionally.

Mortality Check and the Realization of Happiness

Written by Irina Gallagher


mortality check – an experience when, upon being confronted with a massively life changing event, one begins to question what is actually important in life.

When you visualize happiness, what do you picture? Is it a feeling of warmth and security? Are you making it rain with hundreds in a Scarface-type mansion (hopefully without the weaponry) or is your idea of happiness something simple?

My impression is that happiness is a very similar thing for most people no matter their background. After we wade through the nonsense that we think makes us happy – the stuff that we are tirelessly working for that just clutters our lives, I think most people come to a pretty similar conclusion. We want peace. We want to be with the people we love. We want everyone to be healthy and happy. It’s relatively simple. Think back to a few cherished memories. Are you remembering people, places, and experiences or are you remembering material things? The memories that come to mind for me are incredibly simple times with close friends and family; watching the news in the evenings with my grandparents, enjoying ice cream bars with my dad, snuggling with my babies, laughing with siblings after the kids are asleep during family vacations. My happiest memories come from moments of heartwarming nostalgia. Happiness is a very simple endeavor, but if we don’t look back on our happiest memories with an air of striving for a new generation of such simple happiness, we are in jeopardy of being caught up in the daily minutia of excess, of thinking that instead of our relationships and experiences bringing happiness, unneeded indulgences will.