Love > Hate

written by Irina Gallagher

black-stripe-pride-flag It has been a devastating week in Central Florida after a senseless act of hatred claimed 49 lives and left 53 people injured – some still fighting for their lives. Of course, as a community, we have mourned previous mass shootings. We have shed tears for the victims and families of cities around the country and around the world. We have held our babies closer after all of these tragic events. We have dealt with the heavy hearts. We have tried to put ourselves in the shoes of the affected communities. We have listened to Obama give the aftermath speech time and time again. But this was different. This was right in our backyard, an hour away. The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. An hour away from home. In Orlando, where my (now) husband and I used to go when we skipped school (sorry, parents); where I went to college and got lost in parking garages searching for my car on an all-too-regular basis; where my husband commutes for work daily; where we take our kids on weekend trips. This time, it was our community.

This was the first time that there was no way to shelter our 7-year-old daughter from tragedy. While the week was spent trying to avoid the news in the company of our kids and trying to stay informed by quietly reading the Orlando updates; there was no way to shield this. My girl and I had to have a conversation about hate, about how someone could possibly inflict such carnage by singling out a specific demographic. We had to talk about the LGBTQ community as a safe haven and why we need to support something that should just be a given. We had to talk about how we would feel if her aunts were targeted simply because they loved one another. And with this talk, I had to erase a part of my daughter’s innocence.

The following day, we were preparing to go to a local candlelight vigil for the victims of Pulse. My daughter asked if we knew anyone who had died there. I responded that while we didn’t know the victims personally, we were going to show our support, to show unity, “We are going because,” and she finished my sentence “we care.” Yes, we were going because we care. We bought candles and spent time drawing rainbows and hearts on the wax catchers. When we arrived at the vigil, we saw unity. We saw people come together in support of the fallen, but also in support of love and equality. On the way home that evening I asked my daughter if she was able to hear all of the speakers during the ceremony. She answered yes. But what stuck with her most was one line: “We are one.” She was referring to the most powerful speaker of the night, Pastor Glenn Dames of St. James AME Church, who proclaimed “We will not be divided. We will stand together. And we will not allow some cowardly terrorist to pull us apart. We will cry together. We will rise together. We will laugh together. And we will be one.”

Vigil

There were tears this week over the horrendous act of hatred in Orlando, for the lives lost all too soon, for the state of our world in which a massacre like this can occur. But more tears were shed over the community’s reaction – the thousands upon thousands of people who waited hours in line to donate blood (shout out to my mama); the donations pouring in from all over the world in support of victims’ families; the companies, corporations, and sports teams who have offered support to Orlando in numerous ways; the strangers who have gone out of their way to show various acts of kindness, because they wanted to do something; the vigils drawing hundreds, thousands of people in communities far and wide; and countless stories of love and support. The unity that we have witnessed since last Sunday has been tremendous and I know that not only Orlando feels the love, but the collective LGBTQ community as well. This week showed, above all, that love is greater than hate. Every time.

“What divides us pales in comparison to what unites us” – Edward Kennedy
Orlando vigil

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.