Neal at Last

Neal sounded as much fun on the phone as he did on the pages of the GE notebook.

So we decided to meet for dinner on a Saturday night after his “Japanese fencing” workshop. (?)

We met in the bar of a lovely restaurant called Saybrook Fish House in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. Within 15 minutes I was in love. Why? He was so fascinating, funny, kind, intelligent, and attractive (muscular, shaved head, lively eyes). I thought, “I could spend the rest of my life talking with this guy.”

He told me that he had spent the day in an Aikido martial arts weapons workshop. Aikido is a synthesis of pacifist martial arts techniques and meditation. I told him about my work with cultural preservation among the Cheyennes of Oklahoma. He told me about his work as a Board Member of The Connection, a social service organization to help drug and alcohol impaired people in a live-in setting (he would later serve as President.) I told him about teaching at Wesleyan and my involvement with the College Music Society dedicated to excellence in college music teaching. We spiraled around all our interests breathlessly and talked about our children and our dreams for our lives.

Neal stopped at one point and said the nicest thing – and it was not a “line” because I’ve come to know he is incapable of dishonest flirting.

“I have to admit I’m a little bit intimidated being with a woman as beautiful as you,” he said. I was floored. There I was, feeling all fat and physically inadequate compared to this trim lifelong martial artist.

Well, we started breaking Great Expectations rules right and left. He invited me to his condo (across the street) and we drove over in his car. Bad bad us. He showed me around his nice neat home and pointed out the tile floor he installed himself, and his herbs in pots, and he lit a candle. We started making out. Bad bad us. But wow!

Pretty soon I went home like a good girl and we started dating. Our second date was his visit to the rehearsal of the Wesleyan Gamelan (Indonesian orchestra) of which I was a member. He sat in the back in on his knees and meditated while he listened. We drove home in the rain listening to Sting (Ten Summoner’s Tales). On another date I gave him the tape. (No CDs then.)

It was time to meet each other’s children,

Nice Guys starting with N

One thing joining Great Expectations did for me was prove that there were a lot of very nice gentlemen left in the world. And they wanted to meet me! I had a few dates and a nice trip to New York City with one, a college professor, but he was fond of his pipe and that just did not work. I also found him to be a bit too old – which ordinarily was attractive.

I realized that I had dated too many older men. It was obvious I was looking for my father for some reason – maybe for wisdom and security. But then I had a life-changing thought.

Instead of looking for my father as an older man, why not look for the attributes of my father in a younger one? Or, try to find my father when he was my age, not older.

I think this way of thinking gave me a healthier approach to finding a new husband, and that was what I was really looking for, not just fun dates.

So I went back to the GE library and started again. I decided – why not look for a guy with one of my favorite names? I had always loved the name Nick, so I picked up the N notebook and started hunting. As I flipped through the pages, I saw a face that made me think HOLD THE PHONE.

There was a completely bald guy with a huge mischievous smile and nice suit and red tie. And I thought, “That guy looks like so much fun! I’d like to meet him just to make friends!”

Then I read his bio. Non-smoker. Father of two. Divorced my divorce year. Born my birth year. Religion: Zen Catholic. What the heck was that? But it sounded intriguing. His idea of a perfect date? A picnic. His idea of fun? Playing with his children and pets.

Politics? He wrote “Personally, I’m waiting for the New Deal to come back.” He described his surroundings: terra cotta tile, candles, herb garden. Marriage? Interested. And he said he gave a good massage.

Heavens! Now I’m super interested. I began the process of meeting him and waited. And waited. I had almost given up and in the meantime dated other GE guys. Then the phone rang one night.

“Hello, this is Neal Dunnigan…”


Continuing the story of how I met Neal…

After I sent in the postcard, I was invited in to the Great Expectations (GE) office for an interview. I discovered that the place was a quality outfit, doing criminal record and financial checks on all potential members. And I liked the procedure.

Every member had photos taken by a professional; one was dress up, the other casual. Then a professional videographer interviewed you for a VCR tape. You wrote a bio, and answered questions about yourself and whom you were looking for.

When you finished all that, you were entered into a notebook (this was before internet dating) and you were placed on the shelf alphabetically in the Candy Store – a joking name for the library of members.

You came into GE, passed Security, and visited the notebooks set up in a kind of library with coffee and tea available. If you saw someone’s page who looked interesting, you asked for the video. If you liked the person you saw in the video, you let the “librarian” know and she sent that person a postcard (this is before email was common.)

The postcard recipient then came into the library at their convenience and looked at your photos, bio, questionnaire, and video. If they wanted to meet up, they were given your telephone number. (No mobiles yet, remember!)

On the phone you both agreed to an appointment, arriving in separate cars, in a public place. Just having coffee was encouraged, but dinner was ok too. You paid for your own meal. People were discouraged from going to the other’s home on the first date. Physical contact was discouraged on the first date. Counseling was available in the GE offices.

This was a pricey deal. GE was manned by quality folks. It was on the up and up all the way. They even threw picnics and parties to help people become acquainted. They gave seminars on various topics such as dating, relationships, etc.

I became convinced that this investment was worth making, because I wanted to see New York City and other places in the NE but not alone. (Thanks to an inheritance from my mother I had the $1500 fee.) I figured that the companionship and opportunities were worth the money even if I did not find Mr. Right. It was the safety and seriousness I liked.

It definitely turned out to be a worthwhile investment for many interesting reasons.

I wore a turquoise nubby silk blazer and black turtleneck and Cheyenne beadwork jewelry for my photo. My hair was salt and pepper and very chic; I wore long black leather boots and a smile. I can’t remember my casual photo. I wrote a pretty sexy bio heavy on the intellect and compassion angles. In those days I was hot to trot and I was not coy about it. But I was not brazen. You had to be a thinking man to “get it.”

I was looking for sophistication, intelligence, adventurousness, health, taste, an interest in the arts, and financial security. And a good dancer. My sons said to be honest! Most importantly, this man had to have good father potential. I would rely on my Mama Bear instincts for that one.

Let the fun begin….

How Did I Meet My Husband?

I took this picture on the Saturday before Easter…

People ask me how I met this wonderful man.

and somehow I lost the rest of this page.

quick recall ….

My sons and I filled out a postcard that asked “Who are you looking for?” from Great Expectations, a video dating service.

No Bicycle

One of the disappointments of my fairly happy childhood was not being allowed to have a bicycle.

Year after year I begged Santa Claus for one but it never came. I was greatly blessed with books and toys and dolls and lots of other things came my way, but no bicycle.

I suspect my parents were protecting me from hurting myself, or straying too far. They made it up in so many ways – after I started playing the flute at 8 years of age I used to receive wonderful musical gifts. Metronomes, fancy music stands, and instruments. Those wonderful flutes I was given took me much further than a bicycle ever would.

And yet I feel the loss in a couple of ways.

Now that I live in Ireland, I look around at a land that begs for bicycle exploration. And now that I am 67 with two knee replacements, I cannot risk injury of learning it now.

Not having a bicycle made me a little less fit, coordinated, and healthy than my friends. I was naturally sedentary with a nose for books and gardening. But I would have explored on that bicycle.

So I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself. I tried to learn in later years but kept falling off and I do NOT like to bleed. It was just not to be.

It is something I look forward to in heaven. I want to take a lunch, wave goodbye to God, and go exploring with young legs pedaling and young eyes looking.

Won’t that be fun?

My First Opinion

Ha! Anyone who knows me knows that this is not my first opinion. I do not sit on the fence once I’ve decided what I think. It’s deciding what I think that is the problem.

Anyway, my first opinion written on this web site is that I hate the word blog. Just the word, not the idea of one.

Blog sounds like the past tense of booger. Or, it sounds like, “If I eat another cookie, I’m going to blog.” Or, “I haven’t had coffee today so I feel all bloggy.” I could go on. Ugly word.

How about this? BLOG stands for “Bound to be Logic-free, Opinionated Garbage.”

Or here’s a limerick:

There once was an innocent blog
That became like the vomit of dog
It started out wired
but became very tired
And disappeared into the fog.

I don’t want this set of memoirs and opinions to do that – disappear into the fog, or become tired. I think the only way to do that is to stay honest. And, there’s the rub.

Why am I here?

I used to think that if you weren’t doing something for someone else, your life had no meaning. Those were interesting times, because that was most of my life.

I’ve changed my idea now. Age! It happens. I’ve discovered now that if I don’t put myself first, there will be nothing for anyone else.

In the past however….

I lived for love. And I’m lucky – I have a good husband that I enjoy living with every day – even locked down days. But I don’t live for him any more.

I lived for family, though I’m sure my sons would laugh at that thought. I raised them to be strong and independent – I was not a smothery mother. I knew from my own experience you have to take care of yourself. So they learned to cook, clean, wash clothes, and follow me around on their best behavior during my field work days with the tribes. They turned out to be strong, talented men. But I stopped living for them while they were in high school.

I lived for “my career” which should be careers as I’ve had so many. Careers take a lot of thought, time, and energy but they don’t give back much for the price they extoll.

I lived “for God” – which I still do – but differently.

Self-care is a form of living for God. You do the right things to take care of the body, mind, and spirit you were given, and lo! You have things to give out to others.

I have created a little set of Bylaws of my own corporation – that is, ME. I am the Chief Operating Officer of ME and here are the bylaws of said firm:


1. The concern shall be called SELFCARE, INCORPORATED; the purpose will be perpetual self care (of and in the corpus) as the sole activity of life. There follows a list of standards and procedures.

2. Avoid vexations of the spirit, also known as occasions of sin, but mostly aka things that piss me off.

3. Move as much as possible every day. Goal: walk 1 hour per day.

4. Dance at every opportunity.

5. Laugh at every opportunity – out loud.

6. Sing and play instruments.

7. Breathe and be thankful for breathing.

8. Enjoy water often – drinking it in and swimming in it.

9. Avoid responsibility for anything, particularly leadership opportunities.

10. Say no with a smile and don’t look back.

11. Smile in the mirror – always. Always.

12. Rejoice in bathroom visits.

13. Practice self-compassion.

14. Meditate – that is, spend dedicated time practicing being in the here and now – daily. In so doing I will give myself the gift of my own wholehearted presence.

15. Bathe mindfully. Spend money on bath products and don’t be stingy in using them.

16. Wear things I am happy in and have style!

17. Take care of my feet. Spend money on them. Keep toenails trimmed and see podiatrist/chiropodist and reflexologist regularly.

18. Enjoy haircuts. Keep it simple.

19. Moisturize. A lot.

20. Floss. See dentist twice a year.

21. Nap without guilt.

22. Ignore the phone without guilt.

23. Rest on my laurels; inventory laurels as needed.

24. Start a formal gratitude practice, e.g., notebook.

25. Make art. When it’s not fun, stop.

26. Recognize God is between every inhale and exhale.

27. Recognize the spirit of God in animals, look them in the eye, and affirm it.

28. Recognize that all these things are the best things I can do for everyone else in my life. But don’t do them for that reason. Do them for ME.

So all this is to answer the question why am I here and put forth a plan for the future.

I figured that before delving into the memoirs, it would be a good thing to ground myself in a firmly thought-out present.

My husband Neal Dunnigan

Who am I?

My name is Virginia Giglio. I have had a wonderful life – a life full of wonders. That does not mean that my life has been easy. In fact, my life has been full of pain. It was pain that taught me that I’m a pretty nice person.

Once when I was suffering a great deal of pain while undergoing a medical treatment, I had to put in a mouth guard to clamp my teeth on – the pain was that severe. I would sing or hum or play little mind games during these four-times-a-day treatments. One day I played a silent game of “who would I change places with?” I began to think of people I didn’t like and whether, if I had the power to do so, I would put them in my place to suffer my pain. And one by one, I thought, no, I couldn’t let the people I didn’t like suffer this pain. So I let my imagination move on to people who had hurt me – would I swap places and make them take my pain. Again, the answer was no. Then I began to think about people who had been cruel to others, and imagined the worst person I could think of: Hitler.

I thought for a moment I might have found a replacement for myself and that I could put the pain on Hitler. Then I thought, NO. I couldn’t do it even to Hitler.

Then, a little voice inside me said with a giggle, “I must be a pretty nice person!” And then, despite my pain, I had to laugh out loud. I discovered something wonderful. In the depths of my pain I discovered an unconquerable kindness within myself.

Welcome to knowing me. It might be safe to make my acquaintance.