I created Shebang (as in “the whole shebang”) to be the centerpiece of my back garden studio. It is made from recycled materials. I made all the components during the first 2020 lockdown between March and the end of June, continuing into July during our brief reprieve. Because the garden studio was being constructed some of the material was discarded from that project: PVC pipe, wire, tile spacers, etc. from the kitchen came sweetener boxes, soup boxes, a cocoa can and other trash. Grocery store circulars with slick paper and newspapers were used to cover the objects. Leftover paint provided the background and the canvas is a piece of Masonite packing material backed by leftover lumber.
It all starts with this can blowing off its lid.
It was Shebang that caught the attention of Reverend Mike O’Sullivan who invited me to do an outdoor collage for the Unitarian Church Cork. More on that later.
I refer to Shebang as my “masterpiece” because it makes me feel so good!
A few years ago, I had two total knee replacements, but I recovered and walk fine. The problem was, I was not walking. I was turning into a slug and my knees were stiffening. And when the first lockdown came in 2020, I decided to learn to make soda bread and scones and lemon curd and FOOD!
All this and NOT walking led me to gain 50 whole pounds – not the COVID-19 pounds people joke about. 50! And me not walking. Which led me to be pretty darned depressed – fat and feeling like a big useless depressed slug.
I started walking in March 2021 and have committed to doing so every day. I increased my steps from only 17 thousand steps in February to 147 thousand steps in March. I use an LL Bean walking stick to help my balance and to exude authority over my walking space. My current goal is 4 km per day every day at a rate of 18 minutes per kilometer or better.
Then, on Facebook I saw the invitation to walk 10 K a Day in May for the Mater. Well, my inner walking hero decided this was for me. It was only about 2000 steps more a day than I was walking already. The beautiful orange tee shirt was the deal maker – I wanted to walk in a bright orange shirt!
SOOOOOOO……I signed up in April and started to make an effort to walk 10 K that day – which I did! Today I am going to try to do the same. Then I will be ready for May, you see. It will be a piece of cake. Which, by the way, I don’t feel like eating so much since I’ve refocused my goals AWAY from the baking oven and onto the walking path.
Already I can feel big differences in my body though my weight has not gone down. My clothes fit better, and my skin looks nice, and I just feel more in control of my impulses! I figure the weight will drop automatically and I need not worry about that as long as I get out there and WALK.
Furthermore, ME taking care of ME keeps me out of the Mater, so that the hospital front line workers can take care of people who really need it.
Click arrow below!
I closed my video this way…
“So if you are dangling on the edge of commitment, jump on in. The Mater’s fine!”
Yes, it happened. I still can hardly believe it. I lived in Oklahoma at the time and Mama lived in Atlanta, Georgia. My brother Tom called and said, “I have the worst possible news to tell you that I could ever tell you.” I knew Mama must be dead then, but there was more. Some people had broken into her house and killed her. She was not assaulted, just knocked over the head and she died from it.
The police never found who did it. They were of the opinion that the murder was an accident; the murderers thought the house was empty and were looking for money or valuables and my mother came out of the bathroom and surprised them. Evidently they hit her over the head and laid her on her bed. The police said that was a mark of respect for the victim. The murderers did take her diamond rings off her fingers and they stole her pistol which was in a drawer by her bedside. At first the police thought they might be able to trace the murderers by identifying the pistol when it came to light, but that never happened. They believed the robbery to be drug-related, as there were drug users in the neighborhood and a needle park a few blocks away.
All of us siblings (five of us) were aghast and took it very hard, and very differently. I wish we had all gone to counseling together about it. Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s something that was provided to victims immediately, before they make mistakes with one another that are fueled by confusion and grief and disbelief? Or shaken beliefs.
So, we have never had to endure a trial, or a mistrial, or any kind of monkeyshines in a courtroom. As for myself, it didn’t take long for me to forgive the people who murdered my mother. They were likely drug addicts who died not too long after she did. They did not profit by the robbery in any financial way. But they sure messed up the house. And the police did the rest.
The fingerprint powder all over the house was a worse mess than the ransack. It is a greasy black substance that is hard to wash off. The police also transported my mother’s body to the coroner and by the time she was released she was in no condition to be seen – too much time had elapsed before embalming took place. She had a closed casket, so we didn’t get to say goodbye to her sweet face.
All of us took it differently. I will speak only for myself.
I became compelled to do things RIGHT NOW that I had always wanted to do. I lost weight, bought new clothes, took a leave of absence from my teaching assistant position and my PhD work, and decided to get out of the orchestra pit and onto the boards. I had always wanted to be on stage, not playing flute for the actors.
So I decided to audition until I got a part. And soon I did. Evidently I brought some passion to the auditions, because I got the lead in one production (The Glass Menagerie at The University of Oklahoma) and a character singing role in another production of The Old Maid and the Thief. I started water exercise and stopped eating and got very very thin, down to 106 pounds. I couldn’t eat. Thinking of Mama dead took away all desire to eat.
At first I could not watch violence on TV or in the movies. It was real to me; it had happened to me.
Later, I became enthralled with violence and emotion in movies. There was a movie where Mel Gibson played a suicidal cop who shouted “Shoot me! Shoot me! Shoot me!” and I felt such catharsis. I guess I had kind of a violent inner depression. I felt a bit like a lethal weapon myself.
It took years to get over the PTSD of my mother’s murder. It still crops up from time to time.
I came across the resume I used when applying for the position of Patient Access Representative at Kingfisher Mercy Hospital. I’m going to post it here in the memoirs because it will jog my memory for future writing. But also gives a snapshot of me at a particular space in time and what I had to say about myself. It is an attempt to summarize my experience for the purpose of getting the job. So glad Lisa Wilkinson hired me!
Virginia Giglio Kingfisher, OK
PERSONAL STRENGTHS / QUALITIES
• Sunny disposition
• Enjoy Teamwork
• Ability to Help People Understand Difficult Concepts
DEMONSTRATED SKILLS / EXAMPLES
• Oral Communications
o Fund Raiser
o Toastmasters Member
• Office Operations
o Budgeting, Customer Service, Clerical and Bookkeeping
o Ran Small Businesses
o Secretary for a city social services department
o Secretary for an elder services department
o Telemarketer, Great Expectations, Inc.
• Written Communications
o Published Author (Books and Articles)
o Editor (Books and Articles)
o Journalist (Newspaper)
o Publicist (Events, Causes, People)
o Focused Online (Webs, Social Media
• Leadership / Organizational Skills
o Fund-raiser, volunteer coordinator, organizer
o Kingfisher Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner
o Kingfisher Rough Rider Bicycle Festival to Benefit Kingfisher Hospital
o Grant writer, Kingfisher Wheatbelt AMBUCS
o Professional Conference (Academic and Recording Industry Alliances)
• Computer Skills
o Web Master
o MS Office
o Technical Writing
College Teaching 1985-1997
o Bureau of Prisons, El Reno, Oklahoma
o University of Oklahoma
o Wesleyan University, Connecticut
o University of New Haven
o Florida Atlantic University
Technical Writer and Secretarial 1997-1999
o Secretary, City of Wethersfield, Connecticut Social Services Department
o Secretary, Palm Beach County Jewish Community Center
o Nortel Networks Caribbean and Latin American Region
Small Business Owner 1999-2015
o Web Design – Global Thinking, Inc.
o Free-Lance Journalist for Kingfisher Times and Free Press
o Consignment Antique Shop – Kingfisher Antiques
o Commercial Flower Farming – Virginia’s Zinnias
o Alterations, Clothing Repairs, Fabric Shop – Silk Sword Sewing
o Post Doctoral Studies, New York Institute of Technology, 1997
▪ Coursework in Instructional Technology for Trainers in Industry
o Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education, University of Oklahoma, 1991
▪ Dissertation: Oklahoma Cheyenne Women’s Traditional Everyday Songs
▪ Award: Outstanding Dissertation, Fine Arts and Humanities, 1992
o Master of Music Education, University of Oklahoma, 1987
o Bachelor of Music, Georgia State University, 1974
This resume got me the job that put me where I am today, Ireland. It’s amazing what can make a huge difference in the trajectory of life’s journey. The photo below is me as a Patient Access Representative.
A couple of years ago (or less) I did a little reflecting on why I’m a Unitarian at the moment. I even did a little research project and made a little movie. I have 14 statements from real Corkonian Unitarians in it. I also had a nice coffee-chat with my Pastor who is fine with my beliefs and opinions, some of which I will state below.
I am a non-Wikipedian Unitarian. I’m my own Unitarian who believes (in):
– the deity of Jesus the son of God
– the power of the Holy Spirit to do miracles and fuel my best efforts
– an Omni-loving Father God who is close and cozy
– redemption of humankind through the sacrifice of Jesus was a brilliant solution to a terrible problem called death that was invented by God in the first place
– that Allah is indeed Akbar
– that meditation is fabulous and we commune with God while doing it
– that we humans are all capable of the most heinous evil and the most wonderful goodness and we carry these possibilities in our DNA
– the devil exists but has no ultimate power because Jesus won that battle and stands between us and the devil like Gandalf stood off with Durin’s Bane in the Mines of Moria and “that one little word shall fell him.”
– speaking of which, the whole of “A Mighty Fortress is our God” is sublime, outrageous and most wonderful truth
– that hell doesn’t exist but punishment results from evildoing because evildoing sets the wheels of punishment in motion
– that goodness is indeed its own reward and sets the wheels of reward in motion
– that loaves and fishes can multiply
– that whited sepulchres will eventually erupt like pimples and false prophets be exposed like the ersatz emperor’s nakedness
– that Jesus is our ultimate advocate
– that we can’t change the story but we can change the ending
– that God gets smarter every day just like we do just on a much higher plane
– I believe cats and dogs and chickens go to heaven
– I believe in the power of St. Joseph to take care of most anything either through extraordinary intercession or means undiscovered and unimaginable
– I believe St. Anthony finds things
– I believe Mary was a virgin but I also believe in a woman’s right to choose
– There is a Santa Claus
– People would like to be good but some are damaged
– You can find good in everyone if you listen to their story with an intent to find the good
– That suffering just is
– Freak accidents are freaks
– The world needs renewing annually and thank God The Cheyenne American Indians know that and take care of the necessary rituals to make it happen
– That all good prophets come from God, e.g., Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Sweet Medicine, Mr. Rogers, Gandhi, Mark Twain, Robin Williams
– Comedians are special envoys from God
– Gay people need love and God bless them when they find it
– Gender dysphoria is a physical condition
– All are welcome in my world but I prefer nice people who like art, music, laughter, flowers, and are kind to animals and the mentally disabled
– God is so smart and tries so hard, just like me
– Music is another realm altogether and those who know it are richly blessed – same for maths
– Dreams are rich messages and we would do well to pay attention
– We are surrounded by spirits and we need to respect that. The same with travelers, and maybe fairies.
– The more we give, the more we will have.
– Driving carefully is important.
– Buskers and beggars should be dealt with generously and humanely.
– Pay your taxes with joy and forget it.
That’s probably not all but enough to be going on.
This abrupt change of topic since my last post is the result of an invitation to submit an article to “The Carer” magazine of the National Association of Healthcare Chaplains in Ireland.
After retirement from academe and business, I became bored. I did not know I was on the verge of a total career re-trajectory and a retired life of surprising spiritual purpose.
It started when I was invited to apply for a position as a Patient Access Representative in the Emergency Room for the 3 –11 pm shift at a small community hospital (part of the Mercy system) in the town of Kingfisher, Oklahoma. This demanding position required me to be the first face seen in emergency situations, taking down information for the patient and the benefit of physicians; I was also in charge of billing the patient and collecting monies due. I became close to patients quickly in several of ways: emotionally, psychologically, physically, and financially. I found patients turning to me as a listening ear in all these areas.
I soon began to drift outside my job description: sitting with uneasy patients, suicidal patients, or patients with dementia. This allowed the busy ER nurses to continue their work while I comforted the patient. Part of my unassigned work involved prayer, and it became common for the nurses to say, “Virginia, will you pray for room 3? They need it.”
I realized that I was acting like a Chaplain but with no training. Dangerous, I thought. After some research I discovered that “Big Mercy”, that is, Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City (OKC), was offering Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and I applied for it.
I realized that I had some strikes against me. I had no academic theology background, and I was edging up to the age limit. On the other hand: 1) I believed I had a calling 2) I had a PhD with a specialty in Ethnomusicology which gave me a multi-cultural focus 3) I was an Associate of the Sisters of Mercy and 4) I had almost 3 years work experience in the ER. To my great delight, I was accepted into the Mercy CPE program with the Reverend Doctor Unyong Statwick, Supervisor.
In my CPE program at the 380 bed hospital, I worked intensely for an 8 month extended unit, accomplishing more than double the required amount of floor hours while I gained chaplaincy experience in cancer, orthopaedic, rehab, neo and post-natal, internal medicine, surgery, emergency, and intensive care units. I became known as “the Singing Chaplain” because many of my visits ended with me singing to or with the patient and/or their families. I also had the opportunity to lead or participate in worship services in the hospital chapel.
Verbatims were exciting because I was committed to being a better Chaplain and was fearless in self-examination and in the tasks that presented themselves; these included reconciling with family members to whom I had not spoken in years. I dealt with some deep hurts, including the murder of my mother, a miscarriage, and a divorce.
In the meantime, my husband, also retired from business, was in a CPE program of his own. CPE has strengthened and deepened our marriage commitment. CPE Interpersonal Group discussions (IPG) has provided us with new skills of communication, reconciliation, and emotional awareness.
Because my husband Neal Dunnigan is a foreign-born Irishman, we explored the idea of moving to Ireland to continue our training as Chaplains. After an interview and visits to potential placement opportunities, we were encouraged by our Irish colleagues and future mentors to apply for CPE at two institutions in Cork.
Neal applied for the program at Cork University Hospital, and I applied for the program at Northridge House / St. Luke’s Home. After acceptance we downsized our lives by auctioning our house and all our property except for a 200 cubic foot shipping crate of our most meaningful possessions (mostly musical instruments, art, and martial arts weapons.)
It was an extremely wrenching experience. We left behind four children and five grandchildren. We parted with most material possessions. We moved from a 1.5-acre property with house in rural Oklahoma to a 2-bedroom apartment in Cork. Everything we now own we use – nothing is stored or closeted.
We began our work at our respective institutions and have had our heads down ever since. We have been in Ireland almost three years, active in the Unitarian Church Cork, and my husband achieved Board Certification while starting Cork Community Chaplaincy Services to minister to the carers of the homeless in Cork.
Since Covid-19 struck, my work at St. Luke’s has been on and off depending on the levels of lockdown. I have been able to upgrade resident charts for HSE compliance by applying spiritual assessment techniques and have assisted nurses to understand how to use the HOPE assessment tool. I have continued singing and playing flute for the residents.
My call to chaplaincy, as well as my husband’s, has taken us out of our home country, delivered us of almost all of what we owned in the past, and provided us with meaningful futures. Self-care is a priority for us as we are in our sixties and we cannot afford to let our cups go empty. We find Ireland to be a healthier place to live than formerly, and we walk every day on the wonderful greenways and paths of our new home country.
Chaplaincy has been a calling and a life for us this past half-decade. We never expected to find so much education, awareness, and growth in a time when many people think it is time to slow down or just stop. God willing, we shall not be stopping any time soon.
Written at the request of the Reverend Bruce Pierce 10 April, 2021
Neal and Virginia at the Northridge Elder Care Conference in 2019
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.)
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.